Inner City Outings: Where Are We Going Next?
Of all the lessons Inner City Outings teaches to kids, one that stands out is that there are always special natural places nearby to explore. In Atlanta, outings leaders have a lot to choose from: Fort Yargo State Park, Blood Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain… the list goes on.
"This weekend we’re going caving in Raccoon Mountain Caverns in Chattanooga," ICO leader Susie Scarr says. "We ask the kids whether they’ve been camping, and most of them have not. Usually these trips are a first time for them. We went to hike at Kennesaw Mountain, and half of them had never even been on a hike or a trail. It opens their eyes to what's available to them and what they are able to enjoy."
ICO's Atlanta group is one of 50 groups across the country that connects city kids with nature. ICO leads 800 outings a year and serves about 14,000 kids, providing memorable, educational outdoor experiences they would not otherwise have.
Susie is a retired school teacher who got involved with ICO two years ago, thanks to a friend. She was already part of the Women’s Outdoor Network, so, as she puts it, "ICO seemed like a natural fit. Just to see how these kids blossom and interact with each other and with the adults, it makes it so rewarding."
Susie says that budget cuts in Georgia -- as in so many other places -- have forced park administrators to turn to volunteers to help maintain parks. This push to encourage volunteering resonates with kids.
"The kids absolutely want to pitch in," she says. "They’'re in a world of iPods and phones, and they’re not even aware that they can do these things. Parents are too busy to take them out. ICO just does a world of good for everyone involved. The kids love it, they talk about it, and they can't wait to find out where we're going next."
Want to get involved? Find out more info at Inner City Outings. www.sierraclub.org/ico