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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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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!