Outdoor Foundation launches initiative to help four cities 'Thrive Outside'

The Outdoor Industry Association is helping create and reinforce close-to-home experiences for kids and their families in four major cities.
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Child climbing an urban rock wall

While visiting a National Park might not be an everyday experience for a child, the program is seeking to repeat and reinforce those outdoor encounters through opportunities close to home. Climbing walls are one of those ways.

Think of your first experience in the outdoors. Now think about how likely you would've been to seek that experience again had it been negative or if you didn't have access to outdoor recreation areas.

Last week, the Outdoor Foundation—the giving arm of Outdoor Industry Associationlaunched the Thrive Outside initiative to create repeat, positive outdoor experiences for kids and their families in four diverse cities. San Diego, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Grand Rapids, Michigan, were each awarded a $410,000, three-year grant to forge partnerships between existing organizations in the communities, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and conservation and outdoor nonprofits.

"The real desire is to make sure that kids get excited about the outdoors and have a wonderful experience in the outdoors and to feel confident," Outdoor Foundation Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug said. "How do we make sure there's another opportunity? And the best way to ensure there are other opportunities is to make sure organizations are coordinating and to make sure the community is engaged."

She continued, "One of the things we do know about habits is that having a family member or a mentor or a community member that helps make that happen for that child."

Introducing kids and their families to close-to-home opportunities is crucial because 63 percent of people who report that they go outside, do so within 10 miles of their home and less than 10 percent are willing to travel 50 miles or more, according to OIA's participation studies. This program aims to cultivate more outdoor stewards.

The North Face is building climbing walls for kids in three cities across the U.S. The brand's most recent project is in Atlanta, Georgia, in a neighborhood that will also benefit from OIA's new initiative. 

In November, the foundation's brands partners started announced their commitments to the initiative. VF Corporation, Thule, REI, Patagonia, and Wolverine Worldwide have collectively given $2.8 million to date.

In its early stages, the Outdoor Foundation will focus on the four communities. But Aangeenbrug said they want to build out the initiative to 16 cities in four years—or 32 cities in 10 years—and to do that they'd need at least $4 million more from the industry.

"I would love to see brands engaging at a national level and being part of something bigger," Aangeenbrug said. "We still want people to make investments in their backyard. But there’s also an opportunity to pool funding and be part of a national movement to get everyone outside."

Brands who want to be part of the movement can make cash donations. Each city will also establish a gear lending library, which brands could help stock by donating products.

"We're building a community within the outdoor industry to support communities...to make getting outside the fabric of people's lives again," Aangeenbrug said.

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