Adventures with West Palm Beach Inner City Outings
Sheila Calderon vividly remembers the reaction of a kid who witnessed a sea turtle laying eggs: "Awesome!"
"And that's what it is," Sheila says. "What is better than nature?"
Sheila is the chair of Inner City Outings' in West Palm Beach, Florida, one of 52 ICO groups across the country that connect 14,000 kids with outdoors experiences, such as witnessing a sea turtle laying eggs -- something not very many people get to see. Many ICO kids get the chance to visit places they never knew existed. Seeing nature sparks their imaginations. And for many kids, ICO is a respite from urban areas beset with gangs and drugs.
"Most of these children never get any further than their local neighborhood parks," Sheila says. "What we expose them to is absolutely fantastic. We've worked with the Lake Worth West Community Center for four years, and there's not a time I don't walk in and a youngster in the group doesn't come running to me asking me when the next outing is."
These kids get to go all over South Florida: overnight camping in the Everglades, snorkeling at Du Bois Park, and canoeing through the mangroves of Myakka River State Park.
"The mangroves are so tight together, instead of using paddles, they simply pull on the branches to get through," Sheila says.
Earlier this summer, a Sierra Club fundraising effort through Groupon raised $1,200 for the West Palm Beach ICO group. The money, which was collected through donated increments of $10, went toward funding weekend excursions for disadvantaged kids. Through its partnerships and volunteers, ICO's West Palm Beach group is able to go on at least 12 outings a year. Kids arrive home from these trips with a brand new look at the world.
Jose Reyes, a junior ICO leader, wrote after a trip to Myakka State Park: "Night fell upon the still park -- we were all at the campsite and just finished our spaghetti dinner and went on a night hike. The serenity of the calm night gave me a nice feeling of peace. We all laughed and giggled at some of the corny jokes as we strolled through the night with our flashlights. Then we made it to a beautiful lake where we saw the stars and the moon at its fullest beauty."
Looking to get involved? Visit Inner City Outings!