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Sierra Club Scrapbook

August 30, 2012

Inner City Outings Connects With Kids in Las Vegas

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When you ask Charlie Schneider why he loves Inner City Outings, he'll answer with a story.

"I'll always remember our visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park when in the middle of the night I heard one kid on his cell phone. He said, 'Mama, you wouldn't believe all the stars I can see and all these big trees.'"

It's moments like that one that touches Charlie's heart. Overhearing the enthusiasm of kids during trips is a common occurence.

IMG_2698"My kids are all grown up and I was looking for something to do in my life. So I started volunteering for the Sierra Club and Habitat for Humanity. And then I got involved with at-risk kids and when I worked alongside them for a week, I knew that's what I wanted to do when I retired, which happened this year."

Charlie now chairs one of ICO's newer additions: the Las Vegas group, which has taken off in popularity and activity in a short amount of time. There are 52 volunteer-run ICO groups across the country, reaching about 14,000 kids and leading more than 800 outdoor trips each year. Many kids who participate grow up in areas that struggle with gangs and drugs. They usually never get the chance to experience the outdoors, and most don't even know about parks and wildlands near them.

Charlie says taking at-risk youth to the outdoors changes them. 

"I'll talk about things like 'leave no trace,' and I make them understand that the parks and all this land belong to all of them," he says.

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"I remember once a kid in the program came up to me upset because he and his friends witnessed a family whose kids were messing up a trail and the parents weren't doing anything about it. I said, ' The reason you're upset is someone was messing up your backyard.' It was a moment we shared. Here's an inner city kid who grew to relish this place so much, and it was just fascinating that he shared that with me."

The Las Vegas group partners with Burk High School, an alternative school, and it is reaching out to other school districts and youth organizations. Charlie and his team of 14 dedicated volunteers are even in talks to partner with the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team to raise funds for future trips. The goal is to reach more kids and educate and connect them with the beautiful landscape that surround the city.

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"I love taking kids to the desert," Charlie says. "During hikes we talk about plants as a food source -- blue agave and prickly pears. The desert is my love. My favorite place is probably Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area."

Charlie became a Sierra Club Outings leader last year, and after that, "I knew that this was what I would want to do for the rest of my life."

Get involved! Visit Inner City Outings for more information.

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