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April 14, 2011

Opening a Different World

Everybody, even the First Lady of the United States, needs time for connecting with nature. It's part of what makes us human (and helps keep us sane). It's no accident that the beginning of the Sierra Club's motto charges us to "explore and enjoy" this amazing planet. Part of why we work so hard to protect the Earth is so that future generations can enjoy it too.

But for a lot of people -- especially kids -- there's a severe need for some face time with Mother Nature right now. That's why each year Sierra Club volunteers take thousands of inner-city kids on nature outings to the world beyond the concrete and asphalt they've known all their lives. And it's also why, during the past five years, our Military Families Outdoors program has been proud to help more than 40,000 military children, families, and veterans seek some solace, peace, and support from the natural world.

And I'm glad to say that we'll be helping thousands more -- as part of an initiative called "Joining Forces" that Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama announced this week at the White House. The goal is to help military families cope with a range of issues related to employment, education, and health -- and getting outdoors is a big part of it. The Sierra Club Foundation is pitching in with $1 million in grants -- enough for thousands of military children and families to experience the healing powers of nature.

A free trip to summer camp might not seem like a lot in the grander scheme of things. But for kids in families that endure repeated separations for long, anxious months, it makes more than a world of difference; it opens a different world.

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