The Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors marks Sierra Club Mission Outdoors program inaugural event. All of our programs (Building Bridges to the Outdoors, Inner City Outings, Local Outings and Military Families and Veterans Initiative) worked together with dozens of partners to offer a free day of fun in the outdoors to military kids and their families at Prince William Forest Park near Marine Corps Base Quantico. On a beautiful and mostly sunny day, hundreds of children hiked learned how to kayak and cast a fly rod.
Colonel Daniel Choike, Commander of Marine Corps Base Quantico, kicked off the day by thanking the families for coming and telling parents they should give their kids two days off from school for their service – April Fools!
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis joined us to share a bit about the shared history of the military and our National Parks. Did you know that some of the first protectors of our National Parks were the Buffalo Soldiers?
Our own President of the Sierra Club Board of Directors, Robin Mann (a military kid herself), was also on hand to kick things off by announcing the Sierra Club’s renewed commitment to connect all people with the outdoors. Mann announced Sierra Club’s commitment to fund $675,000 (from The Sierra Club Foundation) to the National Military Family Association, Armed Services YMCA and the YMCA of the USA to provide outdoor experiences to military children. We know that the outdoors heals. We hope this funding will help provide some real opportunities for military kids, who often experience greater stress and anxiety, by giving them a chance to connect with the natural world and just be kids.
So, why are we doing this? We wanted to have a day that celebrated the sacrifices our Nation’s Military Children are asked to make every day with one or both parents in the military. We wanted to share with the military community the outdoor activities available in their own backyards. And, we wanted to share with the military a day of good fun and even some skills training so they could get outside on their own following our celebration.
This event would not have been possible without Laura Cohen and the amazing team from Prince William Forest Park, who honored the kick off the month of the military child, by declaring April 1st a fee free day. A BIG THANKS to all of our co-hosts, partners and volunteers for not just talking about supporting our troops, but really doing it! our co-hosts - Blue Star Families, the Armed Services YMCA, National Military Family Association, and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, Washington DC Inner City Outings (ICO) Group and Potomac Regional Outings Group, and partners, Active Network, Alice Ferguson Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, Children & Nature Network, Glen Echo Park, Leesylvania State Park, National Wildlife Federation, NatureBridge, Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, Team River Runners, Trout Unlimited, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
Also, a special thanks to the Mission Outdoors super intern, Sally McGuire, who did a fantastic job coordinating our three dozen volunteers (from the Washington Internship Institute, Marine Corps Community Services and many individuals) and handling much of the ground work for the event!
The Month of the Military Child is being celebrated all month around the country. We’ll be on hand to celebrate military kids in San Diego at the end of the month. But, don’t wait for us! Do your part by picking up a fishing pole or finding a trail and take a military kid outside!
More stories and photos will be posted about this event and the Month of the Military Child on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to follow us there – and if you are getting a military kids outdoors this month let us know on our Facebook page!
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"