Funding fun: 2015 Outsiders Ball raises $265,000 to get more youth outdoors

850 people attended the third annual Outsiders Ball at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 5 – 8. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

At the third-annual Outsiders Ball at Summer Market 2015, more than 850 brand representatives and outdoor retailers put business on hold to focus on a cause common to us all: getting youth — i.e. our future customers — outside. With doo-wop playing in the background, build-your-own tacos on the buffet and bartenders serving up strawberry bourbon cocktails, the outdoor enthusiasts gathered at Salt Lake City’s Gallivan Center were treated to a night of relaxed revelry in the name of philanthropy.

 Photo by Andrew Bydlon

Photo by Andrew Bydlon

Hosted by The Outdoor Foundation, the charitable arm of the Outdoor Industry Association, the night proved to be a smashing success, raising $265,00 — surpassing the $250,000 goal. “This has been our best event yet,” said Outdoor Foundation Executive Director Chris Fanning. “Getting young people outdoors is the most important goal from a business perspective, as well as for a charitable cause.”

Attendees had the chance to give beyond their $150 ticket by purchasing event-branded hats and pint glasses; donating boots, headlamps or other gear needs to specific organizations via the Giving Tree; or bidding in the silent auction for a chance to win a range of prizes from rafting trips and original artwork to branding consultations and business plan reviews.

Other stations offered participants a chance to work up a sweat in the name of charity. At the Century Challenge station, participants hopped on trainer-bound bikes and pedaled their way to $15,000. For each mile ridden, platinum sponsor Levi’s jeans donated $150. “We’re here because it’s an authentic event and we’re an authentic brand,” said James Curleigh, president of Levi’s. “It just makes sense.”

 Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

This year, the Outdoor Foundation will push the money toward three outlets that take different steps toward getting youth outside. Outdoor Nation — the college campus-focused branch of the Outdoor Foundation — doles out grants to deserving university outdoor clubs and funds the Campus Challenge, a nation-wide competition among college students to see who can log the most outdoor hours. A second pool of recipients, all retailer-chosen charities, will similarly receive one-third of the money raised. Another portion will go to the Challenge Cost Share Program, a partnership between the Outdoor Foundation and the National Park Service that supports projects promoting urban outreach, youth engagement and connecting people to the outdoors.

 Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

“We’re continuing to grow this culture, build relationships with the community and show the importance of the outdoors,” said Ivan Levin, director of Outdoor Nation. “If we don’t focus on that now, there won’t be an outdoor industry or enthusiasts to engage in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Each avenue aims to breed that love of the outdoors early in kids. Pointing to the reality that the U.S. will be a minority majority nation by 2035, Bob Ratcliffe, chief of conservation and outdoor recreation programs for the National Park Service, noted the particular need to engage urban-based and minority youth. “It’s important for the legacy of the outdoor industry, the protection of special places and cultivation of a sense of stewardship,” he said. “And it has to start young.”

 Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

Student ambassador from Philadelphia-based Drexel University Dennis Rupp couldn’t agree more. “A lot of the time, being at a city school, people don’t notice the importance of getting outside,” he said. But as a student leader in Drexel’s Weekend Warriors outdoor organization and a direct beneficiary of his school’s Outdoor Nation grant, he’s experienced firsthand the life-change that occurs when his peers leave the city streets behind. “Nothing is better than seeing the first time they see a deer or go through rapids. It’s pure bliss on their face.”

Samantha Scullen, student representative for George Mason University in Virginia, has similarly experienced the joy of leading fellow students in outdoor adventures. For her, one of the biggest motivations is increasing health and wellness among her peers. Pointing to the benefits of getting outside, she noted, “It’s about well-being. A lot of kids on our campus are into this, and we want to build a community and get as many people healthy as we can.”

 Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

Photo by Jenny Jakubowski

From an industry perspective, as well, the Outdoor Foundation’s cause is paramount. “A strong outdoor industry benefits us all,” said Jim Kelley, president of The NPD Group’s Leisure Trends. “[We want to] get them hooked on a lifestyle and activities they’ll enjoy for the rest of their life.”

Thule Group PR & Communications Manager Chris Ritchie called the decision for platinum sponsorship a no-brainer. “They’re the next generation of decision-makers and leaders, so if we can get them outside and enjoying nature, it’s a win for our brand, but it’s a way to keep these outdoor activities available to the masses.”

Summarizing the weight of the night’s purpose, Eric Lamb, performance product line coordinator for event-sponsor SmartWool noted, “It sounds corny, but it’s about the kids.”

--Courtney Holden

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