The Start of Something Great - "Connecting Kids with the Outdoors"
Updated: Jun 11, 2019
My First Taste of the Great Outdoors
The year was 1997, I was five-years-old. It was a chilly November morning and the Wisconsin gun deer season was in full swing. There I was--sitting in the box blind with my dad that he and my grandpa had built. I was wearing blaze orange and was bundled up like a marshmallow. I remember my dad having to remind me several times to sit still and to whisper when I would talk. I didn't quite understand what all the fuss was about until something great happened! Finally, after sitting for what seemed like forever, my dad whispered to me, "Alicia, look at the deer coming this way." He quickly had to remind me, yet again, to be quiet and to move slowly. Looking in the direction that my dad was pointing, I noticed a few deer coming out from the woods and working their way towards the blind. I remember being fixated as the deer moved near. Each step they took and each pause they took--I was intensely observing. That moment was incredible and unforgettable in my young mind. Watching nature do its thing with my dad by my side is something I will never forget. Although my dad was not able to harvest a deer that day, I still consider the outing a success. Little did he know that he got his little girl hooked on hunting and everything the great outdoors has to offer.
Many of us are fortunate to have grown up with people that have shared their love for the outdoors. We can think back and remember pieces of our childhood that involved hunting, fishing, camping trips, etc. Now, imagine if you were never given those opportunities. What might your life and hobbies look like today? It is hard to imagine, huh? Unfortunately, there are many children, that might live right in your neighborhood, who will never have the opportunity to experience the fun of getting outdoors and exploring. Some of the reasons might include family finances, limited time, lack of education on conservation, lack of interest from a child’s family—if no-one in the family participates in outdoor hobbies, etc.
How can we help?
We hear and read the importance of kids being active outdoors and the benefits that children can gain. Some benefits include gaining social skills, self-confidence, education, having mentors to look up to for guidance, and SO MUCH more. Now, the question is, “How can we help kids get outdoors?”
1. Do your research—there are plenty of events that might take place right in your community. Contact your local DNR or Chamber of Commerce to find outdoor events near you. Some areas offer mentor programs that pair a child with an adult for outdoor recreation and learning opportunities. Within these programs, youth are able to participate in mentor hunts where he/she will learn the ins and outs and get a hands-on experience. After school programs are also beneficial for outdoor recreation and peer interaction. School guidance counselors are excellent resources and can help find activities/programs for kids.
2. "Boy Scouts of America" and "Girl Scouts" are two programs that provide youth with outdoor opportunists alongside their peers. These programs also help build leadership skills, self confidence, healthy relationships, and offer a sense of community. To learn more about these programs and to find a council near you, visit www.scouting.org and www.girlscouts.org
3. Something that might seem “silly” to some is…set up a play date with another parent. Maybe you know a family that goes fishing often, ask them if they would have interest in taking your child out if your little one expressed interest in fishing.
4. Donate gently used clothing, camo, and gear to organizations/programs. One organization that comes to mind is “Raise 'Em Outdoors.” A few years ago, I connected with Erin Crooks, founder of Raise 'Em Outdoors, and expressed interest in donating my gently used camo. She explained how the donation process works, which was simple. Then, once my gear was received and sorted out, Erin let me know that a little girl in Alaska would be getting the items I donated. How cool is that?! It is a wonderful feeling knowing someone else is able to learn and experience something new because of you. Do you have old camo and/or gear sitting in a drawer or in your closet? When is the last time you used or wore it? The reality is, many of us have items we have not worn for years and will likely never wear. So, why not donate it to someone who needs it.
Erin was kind enough to answer some questions for this article, which will shed more light on the organization and what Raise 'Em Outdoors is all about.
What is the mission of Raise 'Em Outdoors?
"Raise 'Em Outdoors' mission is to help kids from all backgrounds get outdoors, learning about hunting, fishing, bringing food to the table and gaining the life experience and values that the outdoors have to offer. We created a program to do so, while bringing the whole family together at the same time. We strongly believe that the more parents or mentors invest in their children, the better our future generations of outdoorsman will be."
What drove you to start this organization?
"I grew up in a very outdoorsy family but later in my own life kind of lost my way as a young teen. I Fell into some pretty bad habits with drugs, and giving up on school. Along with just having very ambition or care for myself or my future really. Though the one thing that was always constant in my life ( fishing ), eventually saved me. I slowly had started getting back into fishing and hunting and that became an escape for me out of the bad path I was on. I found myself again you could say. Finished high school and took a healthy step forward with renewed passion for life. A few years after high school I moved up to Alaska and really fell in love with the outdoors even more.
Fast forward to meeting my husband and moving to Virginia Beach for the military. I found myself in a totally different culture and meeting lots of new people and military wives. After talking to them for a year or so at my last job as a fitness trainer and always talking about hunting and fishing with them. I noticed a common denominator. Most of them had kids, wanted to be outdoors more with them, but didn't know what to do, where to go, or much about hunting or fishing in general. BUT they were interested, and they wanted their kids outside more, living a healthier lifestyle. So I guess you could say slowly an idea just kind of sparked and I wanted to start doing camps to help people like the moms I was talking to in my gym. Because I knew what a benefit the outdoors lifestyle played in my life, and being a mom how important it already was to me to make sure it was a part of my kids life. I wanted to help others do the same."
How can people get involved?
"We are always looking for volunteers at our camps or to help spread the word. As well as sponsors, and donors for our organization. A little can go a long ways!"
What type of donations are you looking for?
"Any hunting, fishing, or camping gear is welcome. We try to limit the sizes though since these are for kids and teens we don't accept anything bigger than an XL men's usually. And we ask that everything be in good condition and not be broken ( we actually get donated broken stuff quite a bit for some reason, and we don't have the man power or time to fix it all right now)
We also accept monetary donations. 25 dollars can go towards sending a kid a care package of outdoor gear and 75 dollars can help sponsor a kid for one of our outdoor camps."
Anything else you would like to share?
"We have recently started an online initiative to help get kids outside more. We have a monthly outdoor challenge that gets kids outside exploring and learning and earns then a chance to win a prize from one of our awesome sponsors each month. You just have to subscribe to our newsletter to get the challenge each month!"
To learn more about Raise 'Em Outdoors and how you can get involved/outfit a kid visit - https://www.raiseemoutdoors.com
When I thought about content for this article, I decided to ask parents on my social media platforms to share photos of their kids enjoying the outdoors. I was quickly overwhelmed at the number of photos I received and wanted to share as many as I could. En-JOY!