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RELEASE: CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING: STRENGTHENING AMERICA Connecting Military Kids, Families and Veterans with the Great Outdoors


Stacy Bare, Sierra Club, 720-519-5837, stacy.bare@sierraclub.org

Kristina Ortez de Jones, Sierra Club, 505-206-9629 kristina.ortez@sierraclub.org 


June 27, 2012 – Washington DC – To commemorate Great Outdoors America Week, experts gathered to discuss opportunities for the Administration, the military and non-profit partners to provide support for military families and veterans to connect with the outdoors and build resiliency.


Being outdoors in nature can provide untold benefits, particularly for the Nation’s service members and their families. Those service members and veterans who may suffer from mental, emotional and physical disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, have found the outdoors to be a great place for people to move on from their wounds, and find meaning in life again.


“American service members fought for our country, said Stacy Bare, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Military Families and Veterans Representative. “ We are excited to have a diverse group of partners who understand that American service members who defended their country can experience the healing power of nature. “


The outdoors allows families, children and veterans to “unplug” and connect with others who have shared experiences. Military families and veterans have found that time in the outdoors helps them reconnect with families and friends and regain positive aspects of their military experience.


“Getting outside is a holistic, healthy option for our military families, said Sheri Lapan, Senior Director for Blue Star Families.  “Our mission is to support, connect and empower and it’s outside that all these come together.  We are thrilled to be able to provide as many opportunities as possible for our families to enjoy and strengthen while building the uniquely strong bonds that only the outdoor experience can provide.”


Children of deployed military families are twice as likely as those from nonmilitary families to report elevated anxiety and experience significantly higher rates of behavior problems than their peers.


“At the Y, strengthening community is our cause, and we’re proud to partner with Sierra Club and OAK to provide supportive environments where military youth and families can learn, grow and thrive,” said Katie Adamson, Director of Health Partnerships and Policy. “Together with the Armed Services YMCA, and with support from partners like Sierra Club, we have been able to provide more than 25,000 military children and parents with a camping experience over the past 5 years.  This effort has enabled more military kids to spend time outdoors with their families, engaging in healthy activities and strengthening their awareness of recreational, environmental and conservation issues.”


Children spend an average of 7.5 hours a day connected to electronic media, and less time getting outside. 


"The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is proud to support efforts to give military kids more opportunities to connect with nature,” said Jacqueline Ostfeld, the Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Policy and Operations Manager. “Military children serve too, and time spent in nature is time spent building resiliency and having fun.”



About Sierra Club

Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, we are 1.4 million of your friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet. Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors program is working to reconnect America with the outdoors. Read more at http://www.sierraclub.org/missionoutdoors


About Blue Star Families

Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit network of military families from all ranks and services, including guard and reserve, with a mission to support, connect and empower military families. In addition to morale and empowerment programs, Blue Star Families raises awareness of the challenges and strengths of military family life and works to make military life more sustainable. Membership includes military spouses, children and parents as well as service members, veterans and civilians. Read more at http://bluestarfam.org

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK)

OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in expanding opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors. OAK believes that the well-being of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than forty national organizations across the nation. Find out more on our website: http://www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org.

About the Y

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. Read more at http://ymca.net

About Great Outdoors America Week

Great Outdoors America Week offers opportunity for advocates to take direct action on a number of conservation issues, ranging from wilderness and national monument protection to reconnecting inner-city kids to the great outdoors. Great Outdoors America Week serves as another example of the long-standing, bipartisan tradition of conservation in the United States.



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