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September 12, 2013

Inner City Outings: "The Joy on Their Faces"

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Like so many volunteers with the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings program, Desiree Farve, a five-year certified leader from Baltimore, serves with the purpose and motivation of reaching kids who would otherwise not get to experience the outdoors.

"Especially with inner city kids. I came to realize that working with people in the outdoors was really my passion," she says.

Desiree is one of many volunteers who run 50 Inner City Outings groups across the country. These groups lead more than 800 outings each year, serving about 14,000 young people. Many participating kids live in areas that struggle with crime and drugs. Often they visit places they didn't even know existed, and engage in activities they have never tried before.

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"There was one boy who had never ridden a bike," says Farve. "The other kids went ahead and helped him learn. And now you can't get him off a bike. He just loves it -- and you should see the smile on his face as he's zooming by."

The Baltimore group is within reach of numerous outstanding natural areas, including Assateague Island National Seashore, known for its white sand beaches and wild ponies. ("The kids love camping on the beach.") Other places they regularly visit include Pocomoke State Park, Baltimore's Patterson Park, and a cabin that sits on the Appalachian Trail. "We do a lot of things; hiking, biking, kayaking -- and we're getting into scuba. These are all new experiences for the kids. It reminds me of my own upbringing."

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Desiree's upbringing included living in Germany, where her father was stationed while serving in the military. That was where she first became intrigued by the outdoors. "But it wasn't something my family did. Even as I got older, there was no one in my circle who was interested in it," she says. As an adult, she didn't know where to begin, so she started car camping with her daughter and socializing with people who'd take her out. She then started to join certification programs, trainings, and outdoor organizations like the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and Washington Women Outdoors.

"I wanted to spread what I was learning and get more underrepresented people into the outdoors -- helping women, children, and minorities get comfortable being outside," she says.

Thanks to ICO, she gets to regularly witness kids in nature.

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"The most rewarding thing is seeing the kids be kids at heart," she says. "The boys with the baggy pants and tough talk -- all of that melts away. You see that the kids underneath are all the same no matter what color they are. They see that what we're doing is beautiful and fun, and we're not asking much of them except to enjoy the experience. You see the joy on their faces, even if they're just riding a bike. And they love kayaking -- just being on the water and seeing the beauty."

Want to get involved? Visit Inner City Outings!


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