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P.O. Box 347171
San Francisco

415-516-9919

We are a growing NETWORK of local organizations using training and outdoor gear libraries to help connect kids to the outdoors across America. 

Chicago Explorers First Training April 2016.JPG

Blog

The Outdoors Empowered Network Blog is a great way to keep up with our work! 

 

The 2016 National Summit in the World Series Champions' Town

KYLE MACDONALD

On November second, 14  people from OEN Program Member organizations as far away as Seattle, Los Angeles and Boston, flew into Chicago on a truly crazy first night of our 3rd annual National Summit. Not only did the Cubs win the world series, but both Chicago airports closed briefly (thunderstorms), causing Summit attendees to be delayed for as much as five hours.  But they got there... and 108 years after the last time they won it the so did the Cubs!  

This year's Summit was extraordinary in many ways; our first outside the Bay Area, our first large public event, with 100 people in attendance in downtown Chicago, and our first foray into building shared best practices related to our work.  This last piece not only gives us a chance to compare our programmatic work and learn from one another, but also gives new organizations from around the country hoping to use our shared train-and-support model a set of programmatic structures, policies and pedagogical beliefs to use from the start. 

The Summit was hosted at Camp Sullivan, one of the five new campgrounds run by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and the home of their gear library and training program. Huge thanks goes out to all the staff there that made it possible.  The campground is about 45 minutes from downtown, and when the Cubs' celebration parade got scheduled on Friday, ending less than a mile from our evening event site, we were worried.   

See more pictures as well as video from the Summit visit our Facebook page

Would road closures, traffic and what turned into 5 million people (yes, 5m!) keep attendees from coming to our reception?  They did not!  Chicago Camps went on without a hitch!  

One of the goals of the Summit was to work with local partners, bring together the outdoor education and recreation community and celebrate the success of our local member organizations.  We could not be more pleased at the success we had in hitting our mark!  

Thanks to our amazing host committee and generous sponsors including The Field Museum, REI, Columbia, LL Bean, Adventures Accessed, The National Park Service and Billy Casper Golf, we raised $5,000 for a scholarship fund to get Chicago youth outdoors in 2017.  And we shone a spotlight on the two new programs run by the Chicago Park District and the Forest Preserves of Cook County, who collectively have reached over 700 young people in 2016.  We even got a chance to climb on Saturday at First Ascent Climbing, who bought the first round at the local tap room to boot. Cheers to a terrific Summit! 

Privilege, 100 feet Up a Tree

KYLE MACDONALD

In that opening, welcome speech the kids were told “You’ll climb a tree, 100 feet off the ground”, and I couldn’t get it out of my head as I drove south, away from Mt. Shasta, and towards the city.

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Chicago Park District is a GO!

KYLE MACDONALD

With a forecast of 41°F, rain and wind (perfect hypothermia weather), this Californian in the Chicago mix was a little worried that the crew we had signed up for the first ChicaGo Explorers Front Country Leadership Training might not brave the elements to join us. Instead, 16 youth workers, parks and rec staff, community activists, social scientists and teachers showed up with smiles and true Midwestern grit.  Over the next two days together on Northerly Island, a hidden gem of the Chicago Park District in Lake Michigan, we shared skills, strategies, and tips to support the vision of all to connect Chicago’s youth with the outdoors.

What the Chicago Park District is beginning through the ChicaGo Explorers Program is no small thing.  As one of the nation’s largest park districts, they are making an important statement that we can go beyond basketball and yoga in our parks.  As part of the program, the Park District has launched a gear library, creatively housed in a shipping container on Northerly Island, which contains gear that will be used by these trainees to get youth outdoors.  Gear is one of the main obstacles keeping many youth from camping. This Gear Library will provide high quality apparel, sleeping bags, tents, etc, that will enable youth to camp under that Milky Way – most of them, for the first time.

Outdoors Empowered Network is thrilled to have supported the Chicago Park District in launching this new program!  

Big thanks to Therm-A-Rest and local REI Stores for supporting the effort!