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

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Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2016: Activism in the Outdoors

Shea Morrissey

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market is the “mecca of outdoor gear”.  It is North America’s largest winter sports industry gathering with over 22,000 attendees and every major player in winter outdoor gear. The event serves as a platform for companies to show off their hottest new products and grow their business, but it’s more than that.  Though they don’t bill it this way, Outdoor Retailer also exist as the place where companies connect with nonprofits and government agencies to engage in social and environmental movement building.  

With the National Park Centennial coming up this summer, the theme of “activism” was especially present throughout the show from the start.  During the Outdoor Industry Alliance (OIA) breakfast on the opening day, feminist author, conservationist and activist, Terry Tempest Williams gave a powerful keynote speech, poetically and emotionally urging outdoor retailers to find their activist roots.  

“It is not enough to see [public] lands as portals to recreation and retail, commodities and commerce. They open the door to awe and wonder and acts of the imagination that create hope for humanity.” - Terry Tempest Williams

Outdoor Industry Association’s CEO, Amy Roberts announced a Parks4Kids crowdfunding campaign to support the National Park efforts to get kids into their parks.  Meanwhile, companies were holding fundraisers at their booths to support organizations working to get kids outdoors. Big thanks to Nikwax for supporting BAWT, and to Adventure Medical Kits for raising funds through sales of their Thermal Bivvies for Outdoors Empowered Network!

One of the highlights during the show was the Climate Heroes panel discussion. Some leaders in the industry, including representatives from Vanity Fair Corporation (owner of many outdoor companies including  North Face, Jansport, Reef and Vans), Protect Our Winters (POW), Sierra Club and OIA shared their thoughts on climate change and the role of the outdoor industry and global manufacturers in the movement.  Panelists discussed different strategies for engaging companies, consumers and businesses in the struggle. Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, shared, “We’re in the fight of our lives.  We need all hands on deck. So regardless of who you are or what makes your heart sing , where your passion is, where you are in society, we need you to engage. We need institutions to engage.”

For Outdoors Empowered Network, this event is  critical for us to meet in person with current and potential sponsors who generously donate gear and funding to support Gear Libraries in programs across the country. Gear is an essential piece of the programmatic model we are advocating for in cities across the U.S. and we truly could not do our work with the support of our sponsors. Thank you to our Gear Sponsors and all those companies out there who are staying true to your “activist roots”.

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