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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. 



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


Filtering by Tag: Training

Chicago Park District is a GO!


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!

Toni tells us: Why we Camp in Chicagoland!



Written by Toni Preckwinkle, President of the Board of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. 

Mrs. Preckwinckle, we couldn't agree with you more!  Thank you for your leadership!  The campsites are now OPEN!


This summer, as we head into the final stretch of our centennial celebration, we’re extremely proud to reintroduce camping to Cook County residents and visitors for the first time in more than half a century.

The first site to open, Camp Shabbona Woods in South Holland, will welcome campers beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Friday May 22, 2015. Additional sites in Willow Springs, Northbrook, Oak Forest and Palatine will open throughout the summer, offering tent campsites, RV campsites, small and large cabins for families, groups and couples of all ages and interests.

This achievement has been a long time in the making. Conversations early in my first term led to the development and release of an extensive Camping Master Plan in January 2013. Since then, we’ve completely reimagined these campground locations, adding cabins, tent pads, shelters and fire rings, while updating bunkhouses and dining halls. We’ve brought on experts in site management and reservations. And we’ve developed programs to help our guests learn camping skills and engage with the surrounding landscape. The Forest Preserves has invested approximately $30 million in the campgrounds to date.

Why such an investment? Simply put, camping has a unique ability to connect us to nature and one another.  When we camp, we step outside everyday routines. We come together while preparing and sharing meals. And, of course, we share the wonders of the natural world, from watching a wood duck take off across the water to learning the constellations of the night sky.

And while camping can certainly require expensive gear and hard-won skills, it needn’t be that way. Camping can be for everyone. With a range of lodging, training and gear options, we aim to make camping easy, affordable and enriching for both seasoned outdoors enthusiasts and first-time campers.

I hope you’ll learn about all our new offerings in this month’s Forest Way and visit to learn more about Forest Preserves of Cook County Camping. Camping is the kind of experience that can change a life. I believe it has the power to create generations of Cook County residents more strongly connected to their forest preserves than ever before.


Taken from a previously posted BLOG by the Forest Preserve of Cook County.  Toni Preckwinkle is the President of the Board of the Forest Preserve, one of Outdoors Empowered Network's most important partners in the midwest.  We are supporting them with consulting assistance as they incorporate a gear library and training program (called the Camping Leadership Immersion Course or CLIC program) in one of their FIVE new campgrounds.


The White House! And keeping my feet on terra firma


It's been a busy and exciting month! It began when I was honored to be invited to the White House as a nominee Champion of Change—Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders.

The White House and the event cast a spotlight on the importance of getting kids outside. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell continues to impress. She reiterated her plan to connect 10 million youth to the outdoors through four initiatives: Play, Learn, Work and Serve Outside. Secretary Jewell began her speech by saying "my favorite classroom is a room where there are no walls, the outdoor classroom!"

After my trip to D.C., I headed to Chicago to talk to potential partners including Chicago Wilderness, an impressive regional alliance that connects people and nature in three states around Chicagoland.  We have also been talking to great people in Madison, Wisconsin; Portland, Oregon; and Boise, Idaho. Make sure you follow our Twitter and Facebook feeds to keep up to date on where we’re headed next. 

Keeping my feet on the ground in the outdoor classroom was my goal when I co-taught the Frontcountry Leadership Training for Bay Area Wilderness Training last month. It was such a joy to once again be outside teaching, with staff and volunteers from Oakland Parks and Rec, Seven Teepees and Outdoor Afro

Participants gained the skills needed to borrow equipment and safely get youth and families outdoors. We even had another Network Program Affiliate—The Washington Trails Association, join us from Seattle for the beautiful weekend in Tilden Park's Wildcat Campground. 

Finally, I'm happy to announce the Network's new and very experienced Program Director, Jill GreenblattJill has been a lead instructor with Bay Area Wilderness Training since 2001, previously served as the organization’s Program Director, and later on its Board. She also worked with two foundations focused on services and higher education access for low income, first generation, and foster youth.  Please welcome her! 

Happy Spring! 

Kyle Macdonald
Founder and Executive Director
Outdoors Empowered Network

Outdoors Empowered Network is building a movement to ensure that all kids gain the benefits of the outdoors!