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P.O. Box 347171
San Francisco


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! 


The 2017 National Summit was the Best One Yet!


New, best practices, an amazing Pacific Coast setting and some terrific new Coloradans highlight our 4th annual gathering of member organizations. 

Happy faces make up a growing network of people working to connect youth to the power of the outdoors. Pt. Bonita YMCA, Marin County, CA. 

Happy faces make up a growing network of people working to connect youth to the power of the outdoors. Pt. Bonita YMCA, Marin County, CA. 

After a great summit in Chicago in 2016, the network met back in the SF Bay Area in November 2017, for our 4th annual summit.  This year we attempted something that only a network can accomplish: A set of best practices, articulated and vetted, as a guide for all those employing this program model.  And while most of  these are the "inside baseball" type particulars that may seem less than exciting from the outside, the process used to come to agreement on these illuminated some really important reasons for why we do things the way we do them.  One Summit participant said 

Best practices was super helpful. It re-focused my priorities as I’m developing systems and policies.

We also heard from two member programs who are working towards incorporating practices that make them more inclusive.  The Appalachian Mountain Club, and Bay Area Wilderness Training shared their successes, and many challenges as they go about shifting the way they do their work, so that they might be as inclusive as possible.  BAWT has even changed its mission, vision and values to reflect their work to "dismantle racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression that stand in the way of all people fully participating in outdoor activities".  Read BAWT's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement here

Some morning, name game hilarity infused plenty of fun! 

The most useful thing the Summit provides to people is always a sense of community.  Because our member organizations are almost always the only agencies running gear libraries and training programs in their region, its incredibly helpful for staff to connect to other staff, to break down any feelings of isolation.  

Amazingly dedicated people from Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Leadville, Los Angeles and the Bay all came to contribute, and celebrate.  And celebrate we did.  The final night of the Summit was filled with a Lighthouse Tour and fundraising reception that turned out to be a huge success. 

I heard again and again "That was a special night!"  With inspiring words from Jose Gonzales, Founder of Latino Outdoors and Zatunde Morton, from Oakland's Ujima Foundation, people gave generously to help OEN raise $20,000 on the night! 

I felt very proud to be a part of it!

said one Summit participant. 

Me too! 

Thanks to everyone working, volunteering, contributing, to get young people outdoors!  And thanks to everyone for another terrific Outdoors Empowered Network Summit! 

For even more pictures from the Summit and the Outside Lights! Reception, visit our Facebook Page


WTA's Gear Library Grows to Meet Increasing Demand for Outdoor Experiences



Originally Posted by Rachel Wendling for WTA on at Sep 08, 2017 04:01 PM

We are excited to share that our Outdoor Leadership Training gear library now has a new home in a larger space. It will better accommodate the growing community of program partners and the ever-increasing amount of items available to borrow.

The new space is in the Atlantic neighborhood of Seattle and is accessible via transit and from I-90 and I-5. The larger space will allow program staff to work more efficiently and will provide a better hub for workshops and gear library orientations.

It also allows us room to grow and provide more gear to help kids get outside. This year, our gear library has already supported 39 different schools and community organizations that have led 67 outings with borrowed gear. And we’re excited to see that number keep growing.

We want to thank WTA’s members and donors who continue to support this incredible program and have made its expansion possible. To learn more about the Outdoor Leadership Training program and our gear library, visit

“We are thrilled about the new space and look forward to becoming a growing community resource for youth groups,” said Krista Dooley, youth programs director.


The new digs!! 

The new digs!! 

Lending some Adventure


Gear libraries are making it easier for more kids to get outdoors

Article, written by Alison Torres Burtka, appears in Sierra Magazine- online (July 3, 2017) 



Kids who spend  time in wild nature reap all kinds of benefits, including improved physical and mental health, lower stress, and higher confidence. Yet many kids and their families have never camped nor hiked. The biggest  barrier to getting in the woods? The significant cost of outdoor gear. Now, “gear libraries” across the United States are addressing this challenge by enabling many organizations serving youths to use borrowed gear—for free.  Read the full article. 

It Should Not be Understated


The following blog post was taken from a series of texts sent by #DenaliforLucy team member Zak Klein on June 7, 2017 between 9:40am - 9:52am from the mountain at 14,200 feet. 

"Yesterday was monumental. It was the result of two days of effort and sacrifice by our amazing guide team. They went from 11k to 14k camp twice in consecutive days, so the rest of the team could have a rest day at 11k camp. Typically, between 11k and 14k, you cache then carry or back carry.  Instead, the guides hauled as much as they could in packs all the way to 14k camp, and then returned to the 11k camp. Yesterday we loaded everything and left the 11k camp... all of us had full packs and full sleds weighing between 80-100 pounds.

Camp 2- 11,000 feet. 

The slope we climbed directly out of 11k camp was incredibly difficult.  Required sideways crossover (french step) basically all the way up.  Rodney had loaded his sled too full, so he couldn't twist his torso against the drag of his sled, and had to front point at times.  I, Zak, got rocked and couldn't catch his breath, needing to call his rope team to a stop in a place where you're not supposed to stop...sandwiched between a few crevasses.  It was unusual for me, because I've powered past similar altitudes with less acclimatization many times.  But it felt akin to an asthma attack from when I was a kid. 

There are people from all over the world speaking at least 20 different languages. 85% male, and no one under the age of 20, except Lucy.

When we reached the top of the hill, I was worked and out of sorts. It was blowing and snowing and the next side slopes hill (squirrel hill) was right above us. This hill is notorious and is a no mistake zone where you have to keep moving. In order for me to guarantee that I could keep moving, I had to ask my team to take some gear from my pack and my sled. Wes, our lead guide, stated at one point that he was "this close to turning us around," as he held up a gloved hand with his thumb and forefinger about a millimeter apart. That would've been demoralizing to the team as we just struggled up the steepest climb with the heaviest load of the entire trip. With cold hands and urgency, we shuffled gear and prepared ourselves for the climb ahead.

I was able to control my breathing on Squirrel Hill and it continued to improve throughout the day. I believe it was a metabolic issue related to not having enough calories in the morning or eating too much salt the previous evening, or, of course, just one of those spontaneous problems that comes from being at altitude.

It should not be understated how difficult this day was. Both of the junior guides stated that this was the most work they've ever experienced on a trip. Again, their effort and our effort was monumental. With a storm coming in, we couldn't risk getting stuck at the 11k camp. It was imperative that we reached 14k to give our bodies time to acclimate. Over the next four hours as we built camp, we all found the energy reserves needed to assist the guides with shoveling out camp, setting up the tents, and preparing the kitchen area.

The view from 14,200 feet.  Photo courtesy of Alaska Mountain School 

The 14k camp is an absolute dream world. We are living in a world of clouds, ice and rock, and of course, snow. Again there are people from all over the world speaking at least 20 different languages. 85% male, and no one under the age of 20, except Lucy.

We celebrated our accomplishment last night at dinner by revealing six of Lucy's letters and two for Rodney. Hannah had the idea before our trip to have Lucy and Rodney's friends and family write them letters that could be opened as a surprise on the mountain at a monumental time. They were read openly at dinner last night and everyone was moved by the kindness of the Westlakes' friends and family.

Finally, looking out from 14,200' is incredible. You peer across to the impressive Mt. Foraker and then you turn around to stare at a 3000 foot wall that you must climb to reach the 17,000' camp.

We are in great spirits and I can hear everyone in the kitchen happily eating breakfast..

14K Camp, with the headwall and at least four climb-teams making their way to 17,300 feet.