Kick Nature-Deficit Disorder to the Curb: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month

06/09/2014

Just for kicks, I googled fear of outside this morning. My search turned up 187 million results. For comparison's sake, I then googled fear of death and fear of the unknown, fears I thought were fairly common. To my surprise, there were only 84.7 and 73.5 million hits, respectively, and when combined, still fewer results than my first search. While the findings of my quick internet inquiry will probably never hit the annals of any reputable science journal, there is a growing body of evidence that America is becoming increasingly sedentary and spending a lot of time indoors (you can find the facts on the Children & Nature Network's site).

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Thanks for reminding us how awesome Great Outdoors Month is Jackie!

Train the Trainer

06/06/2014

On the weekend of May 17th, 12 Sierra Club Outdoors volunteers and partners met in Hampton, GA for our inaugural Outing Leadership Training-For-Trainers. This T4T was our first step towards reaching a new Sierra Club Outdoors goal of training 600 new volunteer trip leaders who will connect 3000 participants to the outdoors by the end of 2015.

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Volunteer representing local Sierra Club Chapters, Inner City Outings, Military Outdoors program and partners from GirlTrek (a national organization that inspires and supports African American women and girls to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives - simply by walking) came together to practice teaching core Outing Leadership Training 201 training sessions to their peers. Each trainer commited to facilitating two workshops this year: one for their own group and one for another group. Not only will more people get the training they want, but a larger community of leaders will grow.

The trainers in training hailed from Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Maryland and Washington, DC. Each  brought their breadth and depth of personal trip leadership and group facilitation experience to create a powerful weekend of learning for all!

 

  • “I really enjoyed learning about how to tell my own personal story in order to help inspire trip participants to enjoy the outdoors.”
  • “Getting feedback from our peers - especially the areas needing improvement – was most important and valuable to me.”
  • “I enjoyed building relationships with folks I hope to teach with in the next year.”

 

-- Sascha Paris, Sierra Club Outdoors

Sierra Club Outdoors Receives Project Excellence Award

05/30/2014

545341_10151056224433086_631953017_nCongratulations to the Sierra Club Outdoors team for being recognized by the Society for Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) for a Project Excellence Award. Thanks also to Higher Ground, Wilderness Inquiry, Women's Wilderness Institute, and Wasatch Adaptive Sports, as well as the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment for making this research happen!

Since 1983, SORP has been serving the outdoor recreation profession. It is the Nation’s leading association of outdoor recreation and related professionals who strive to protect  our natural and cultural resources while providing sustainable recreation access.

The Project Excellence Award is presented annually to exemplary outdoor recreation projects. The award is presented to the collaborating agencies and organizations key to the success of the planning effort.  Selection criteria will include (a) unique or special circumstances, (b) problem-solving, (c) level of innovation and creativity, (e) impact or effect of project, and (f) collaborative team effort. The award may be presented to communities, special districts, public agencies, citizen groups (e.g., civic, church, youth groups, teams), private industry, non-profit organizations, cooperatives, land trusts, and other organizations who have contributed to an exemplary outdoor recreation project.

The write up for the award is below:

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment and Sierra Club Outdoors: Exploring the Benefits of Outdoor Experiences on Veterans.


Dr. Rachel Kaplan, Dr. Jason Duvall, and Mr. Stacy Bare

“Exploring the Benefit of Outdoor Experiences on Veterans” is the first major research project for the current period of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan community that analyzed the value of outdoor recreation on the veteran and military community. The purpose of the project was to analyze short and long-term benefits on social and mental health for veterans who participated in at least four days of outdoor recreation. Four organizations in different parts of the country led 12 trips impacting 98 veterans from various conflicts. Results of this project show strong support for outdoor recreation, even without a deliberate, therapeutic component, providing significant improvements in social functioning and increased positive life outlook and point to the strong need for increased and more broadly based, as well as specific, research to take place.

The photo is courtesy of Wasatch Adaptive Sports!

The full research report is here:  Download Michigan Final Research Report

Recap: War, Sports, and the Healing Power of Nature

05/29/2014

P5204572On May 20th, Sierra Club Outdoors, in partnership with the New York Stock Exchange, The North Face, and Keen, held War, Sports, and the Healing Power of Nature at the New York Stock Exchange Euronext. The panel was an opportunity to share the similarities and differences in life after uniform for service members, veterans, and professional athletes, and how time outdoors makes a difference.

Pulitzer Prize winner, and ESPN columnist Steve Fainaru, who hosted the panel, has covered the Iraq War as well as the concussion issue in the NFL and, along with his brother, co-authored the book League of Denial.

Harry Carson, New York Giants legend and American Football Hall of Famer; Mike Richter, Olympian, Stanley Cup Champion, and The Sierra Club Foundation board member; former NFL player and international triathlon competitor and Iron Man Don Davey; US Army veteran and military sexual trauma survivor, BriGette McCoy; Active Duty Maj. DJ Skelton, and myself (Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran Stacy Bare) all participated on the panel.

P5204579The parallels in the experience after combat / deployment / service and athletic competition were incredible. Both veterans and athletes discussed the stigma surrounding brain injury, trauma, and admitting, that as a once strong warrior, it is hard to admit you might be depressed, damaged, or hurting.

The biggest challenge discussed however, may be that no matter the resources available, the individual veteran or athlete ultimately has to make a decision at some point that they want to keep on going. As Harry said, “[You’re] the CEO of [your] body. You have to do everything you can to do stay healthy and compensate for the loss of yourself following injury or after life of uniform.

Don Davey commented that upon taking off the uniform the last time that, “What hit me between the eyes was the loss of competitiveness, the loss of the core of who you were.”

Maj. Skelton followed up from Don that in the outdoors, “…you can redefine purpose, you can still dream, you can still aspire to be as big as life, and you’re not alone.” Mike reminded us all that in the outdoors, “…the challenge is as much or as little as you want it to be—buy you’ll never conquer [nature].”

BriGette was quick to go beyond the parallels seen between athletes and veterans to remind us that we needed to move beyond, when possible titles and brands of individuals to speak with an open dialogue about our challenges, regardless of gender or background and try and focus on those things that can bind us together and build community—like the outdoors.

P5204577Maj. Skelton and Steve reminded us that not all athletes or veterans have an injury, let alone a traumatic brain injury (TBI) pr post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that in fact the majority of TBI, PTSD, even amputees and folks who have lost an eye are the general public, not professional athletes or veterans.

It was an incredible evening and could not have been possible without the fantastic support of so many people like Rehana Farrell at Guggenheim Investors, Duncan Niederauer at the New York Stock Exchange, Zach Iscol at Hire Purpose, Zack Bazzi, our Foundation Board members, the fantastic volunteers and participants at New York City ICO, The North Face, Keen Shoes, and of course, our panelists and moderator, and of course the 200+ individuals who came out to hear our stories.

To sum it all up, the outdoors is a benefit to all people, all the time, and as Maj Skelton closed with, “Life is hard, but the outdoors can help us experience post-traumatic growth."

For additional media from the event please click on the links below.

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Bragging on our Volunteers

05/19/2014

Shawnte 2At Sierra Club Outdoors, we have a lean staff who supports, through an extensive network of amazing volunteers, about 5,000 volunteer leaders spread out through three programs that connect 250,000 people outdoors each year.

Our volunteers are EVERYTHING to the way we do work at the Sierra Club. We received this beautiful testimony from Shawnte about one of our leaders in the Wilderness Travel Course (WTC) and wanted to share it with y'all, the Sierra Club Outdoor Nation about Shawnte getting into another WTC course:

Yeah, I'm kinda full-on excited about all of this - honestly, a year ago I had no idea the Sierra Club did so many outings and that it was all volunteer-run…and that it was so much fun. I do so much hiking / backpacking / adventuring on my own, but truth be told, I've always stuck to the same things I know, with the same people I know, and I'm so excited to branch out and try a bunch of new things with new people! Honestly, having the Carey's Castle trip be my first experience trip outside of WTC was AWESOME - you are a fantastic leader and a fun person to be around, the trip was just the right amount of exertion vs relaxation, and the rest of the group was really great - it really gave me a good perspective on what it could be like to take a leadership role and offer other people those kinds of experiences (hopefully!) As much as I take my friends hiking and encourage them to try new things, I'm excited to kind of formalize that a bit more :)

This experience, this kind of joy and love for the outdoors is yours for the taking whether your young or old, live near parks or not, are a military family or veteran or not, and all across our beautiful country--thanks to our volunteers!

We'd love to see you outside soon!

Castle

Advanced Mountaineering Program

05/15/2014

AMP 1Today we have a guest blog from one of our outstanding volunteers, Saveria Tilden. You can follow Saveria on her blog: http://theadventurus.com/

This past weekend in Joshua Tree, the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s popular Advanced Mountaineering Program (AMP) came to a close. 22 students graduated, having completed 36 hours of advanced knots, belaying, rappelling, climbing and anchor work. AMP teaches current rock climbing techniques based on the AMGA SPI standards in real-life settings at iconic California climbing crags such as Stoney Point and Joshua Tree. Over the course of the program 55 leaders and helpers have returned to volunteer, many of them AMP alumni. Friendships are made, good times are had, but most importantly safer climbers are developed. Since the first AMP in 2009, 184 students have graduated the program. Due to its popularity AMP is now held every spring and fall… each course is filled with a waitlist well in advance. This fall will be AMP’s 5th anniversary and with the completion of AMP10, over 200 students will have gone through the program. An exciting milestone for AMP! Climb on!

More information can be found here

And more photos here.

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AMP 3

AMP 4

Never happier being cold and tired

04/10/2014

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From March 3rd to the 7th, Sierra Club Military Outdoors partnered with Veterans Expeditions on our annual veteran ice climbing trip to Hyalite Canyon, outside of Bozeman Montana. It is this week of natural beauty, camaraderie, and mental and physical challenge that makes this one of the best weeks of the year for me in the SCMO program. I personally left refreshed and committed to exploring the outdoors with my fellow warriors, having accomplished my first lead ice climb under the watchful eye of Conrad Anker, all the while basking in the glory of one of our great wild places. Far more satisfying was that I witnessed veterans and active duty service members achieve far more than they thought they could on steep pitches of ice. I watched their spirits rise and their demeanor change as they developed close bonds with their fellow climbers and were transformed by the beautiful canyon around them.

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Navy Captain Bruce Black: "A common theme I have heard from all of my fellow service members that have retired is that it is very difficult to find that sense of camaraderie in the civilian world that you find so readily in the military.  The ice climbing trip in Hyalite Canyon was a chance to see that camaraderie still exists, you just have to know where to look for it.  As I get close to completing my 30 years of active duty service and look at that transition to post military life I know that I want to surround myself with those veterans that have served their country.

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Whatever branch we served in we have a common bond and a common ethos that will stay with us through our active duty journey and post service lives.  The five days of ice climbing allowed me to spend quality time with people that have the same common bond but have gone in different directions after the military and it showed me that I am going to be all right as I head off to my next career.  I never thought that I would find a sense of resilience and peace with a group of 14 people I had never met before, in an area of the country I had never been to before doing a sport that I had very little experience with but I did.  Ironically, as I look back on my active duty service, this one week will be one of the memories that I hold closest."

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Army First Sergeant Mike Pickerel: "Sierra Club Military Outdoors is simple and brilliant.  Ice climbing for my first time with this group was everything I could ask for. The contracted guide service was more than helpful, knowledgeable and safe.  We were even fortunate enough to have one of America’s greatest climbers of Conrad Anker to not only give motivation and climb with us, but coaching and assisting in improving climbing techniques. The selected group of veterans was of different back grounds and experiences.  We had a great common denominator throughout us and that was we all were people of strong resilience, military background, a passion for the outdoors and a drive to excel in the path that lay ahead.

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Using outdoors as your sanctuary is not anything new, throughout the ages this has been a place people of all types have come to relax, think and just find themselves.  The fact that Sierra Club is reaching out to the Military as an audience for this is quite awesome. Hyalite Canyon was a beautiful piece of land with great ice climbing and views to be lost in as you gained the elevation on each pitch. I wish to give a thanks to SCMO for such an opportunity to learn a new skill, enjoy and meet new and other veterans who enjoy nature, and a chance for me to get back to nature in it’s rare beauty."

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Read more about the trip in the following articles by Chris Kassar and Stacy Bare.

Stacy Bare Finds Camaraderie on the Ice

Return to Hyalite Canyon

A special thanks to the North Face, Black Diamond, Petzl, and Outdoor Research for their support on this trip. I'd also like to thank Sam Magro from Montana Mountain Guides and Conrad Anker for their professionalism, great spirits, and good company.

We have a great year ahead of us with trips to Cedar Mesa Utah, the Veteran Film School in the North Cascades, the Birth of Rivers trek with Paradox Sports, and the Ptarmigan Traverse in the Pickets. Check out the SCMO site for more information.

Highlights and the Hangout with Michael Brune

03/28/2014

A couple weeks back Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and I, along with Sierra Club Foundation Board member and fellow National Geographic Adventurer and ambassador at The North Face, Juan Martinez, and I sat down for a thirty-minute conversation about Sierra Club Outdoors and the mission critical role to any healthy conservation movement that getting people outside plays.

You can see the full thirty minute hangout here

 

 A few highlighted quotes from Michael Brune speaking about the value of Sierra Club Outdoors (SCO) and the importance of getting outside:

 “Getting outdoors is a vital as an end to itself…no one looks back at the end of the year and says, ‘I wish I had sent more emails, I wish I had spent more time on conference calls…’”

 “We all come away from the power of the outdoors more centered…Reconnect to our roots, inspire our activists, fighting coal plants, or monuments; staff or volunteer, working in the chapters or groups, to find more ways to get more people outside including our friends and family.”

 “The real value of the outdoors is now, more important than ever…More efforts to bring conservatives, liberals, libertarians, Republicans and Democrats together outdoors and get to know one another.”

 “Outings fits into the vision of everything we’re doing, coal, oil, OWA (Our Wild America) to protect 5 million acres over the next couple of years and inspire the Administration to inspire use of the Antiquities Act.”

 “The work that we’re (Sierra Club Outdoors) doing is so important, and the fact that its lead by volunteers; is being driven and led and guided and shaped and powering this work is amazing.”

Thanks for the hangout Michael and Juan and for the many volunteers who joined in and asked questions! In the next few days we'll have longer answers out here in this space to many of the questions asked!

Sierra Club ICO Volunteer Wins White House “Champions of Change” Award

03/24/2014

Ben Blonder

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Resources and Organizations Getting Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Outdoors

03/19/2014

IMG_0365A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine reached out on behalf of a few veterans he knew and asked if there was one place where someone could get information on all the various outdoor recreation opportunities that existed for folks. Part of the challenge of being a veteran today is that our country has really responded in a huge way to the needs of our service men and women, veterans, and their families and the support can be difficult to manage at times.

What follows is a list of organizations that provide outdoor opportunities for service members, veterans, and their families. While we have had a lot of positive experiences in many of these organizations, please do not use this list as an endorsement of different organizations over another. Each organization has many positives but may not be the right fit for an individual.

This list is meant as a starting point for individual research and decision-making and is certainly not exhaustive. Please list other resources in the comments section and we’ll update this as we learn about more organizations. All Military members and their dependants have free access to public lands. More information on the program, called The America the Beautiful pass can be found here.

A great place to start for sifting through the support providers and support wanted or needed can be found at Warrior Gateway: http://www.warriorgateway.org/ for a number of different resources.

Obviously, we at Sierra Club Outdoors are very proud of the many opportunities we provide for service members, veterans and their families, more information can always be found at this blog and the website here: http://content.sierraclub.org/outings/military

Additionally, all veterans and military family members receive 10% off our National Outings, which can be found here: http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/military-discount.aspx

One of the neatest programs we’ve had the opportunity to partner with is the National Military Family Associations Operation Purple Program which sends military kids to summer camp: http://www.militaryfamily.org/our-programs/operation-purple/

A number of outdoor recreation and recreational therapy organizations have come together to form the R4 Alliance to try and minimize these challenges of finding the right opportunities and can be found here: http://r4alliance.org/current-members/

Includes links to Ride to Recovery, Project Sanctuary, Team River Runner, Higher Ground, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Northeast Passage, Terros, and Operation Game On are all current members along with the Sierra Club.

Again, this list is not complete, far from of it. Please tell us in the comments section who we’re missing and hopefully this can be a resource for other service members, veterans, and families who want to find resources to get outdoors.

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