Baltimore public school teacher Brad Hunter, above at right, a volunteer leader for the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings program, says he found out about ICO totally by happenstance.
"I'd been overseas for some time and I came back to visit my parents," he recalls. "My mom is a Sierra Club member, and the chapter newsletter was sitting on the table. It had an ad about Baltimore ICO, so on a lark I went to the website, made a call, and went on a trip. After four or five trips I decided to get trained as a leader because helping youth have positive experiences outside was just, well... fun. I've now been on 70+ trips over the last six years."
With active programs in more than 50 U.S. cities, ICO provides outdoor experiences for kids who might not otherwise have easy access to nearby nature. Hunter says most of the kids he works with have had few if any opportunities to access the natural world. "That's what ICO is all about. The main thing I want to do is get kids comfortable in the outdoors. From that comfort they can then learn to appreciate nature, and a desire to protect the natural world often follows."
"I can talk to the kids all day about things like water-quality issues in Chesapeake Bay," he says, "but if I'm able to help them have a positive experience through fishing, sailing, hiking, or just exploring around the bay, then as they grow older they'll have a greater understanding and appreciation of what an amazing resource it is."