The Start of Something Great - "Connecting Kids with the Outdoors"
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?”
- 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.
- "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 scouting.org and girlscouts.org
- 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.
- 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.
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!
source: Alicia Joy Outdoors