Web Exclusive - September 2022
Find a printable version here

Nearly 50,000 Youth Connected to Outdoors by Thrive Outside


In 2021, the Thrive Outside Network reached nearly 15,000 youth in eight communities of focus. Since the Outdoor Foundation launched the Thrive Outside Community Initiative in 2019, it has connected 49,855 youth and their families to the joy, wonder and benefits of the outdoors.

The initiative awards multi-year, capacity-building grants to diverse communities with the common goal of providing children and families with positive, repeat experiences in the outdoors.

Research shows that time in nature provides benefits of improved physical and mental health, reduced depression, reduced anxiety and stress, and improved social connection. Yet, access to nature is not equal. People of color are three times more likely than white people to live in nature-deprived areas, and 70% of low-income communities live in areas lacking green spaces. The Outdoor Foundation is dedicated to addressing these inequities and helping make the outdoors accessible for all.

For example, in 2021, The Thrive Outside Atlanta network, led by Trust for Public Land, provided experiences for youth along the Chattahoochee River and through events. In addition, the Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation (Camp Best Friends), Georgia Forestry Foundation and the Nantahala Outdoor Center all joined the network. In addition, it was announced that the West Atlanta Watershed will be the program's backbone partner beginning in 2022, with a focus on access and programming around the Chattahoochee River, biking, and green space preservation and restoration.

Thrive Outside Oklahoma City (OKC) celebrated its biggest summer of camps and field trips in 2021, with youth engaging in archery, kayaking, fishing, camping, beekeeping, knot-tying, backcountry cooking, wildlife education and more. Thrive Outside OKC also partnered to provide adventure therapy programming.

Recently, the VF Foundation awarded the Outdoor Foundation a multi-year grant of $500,000, which will support the Thrive Outside initiative, enabling it to welcome Boulder County and the surrounding Denver metro area to one of its regional cohorts.

Denver/Boulder Thrive Outside will focus on addressing equity barriers for diverse youth and families in Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette, and Denver by unlocking access to the outdoor places and experiences for which Denver and Boulder region is world-renowned. Thorne Nature Experience will serve as the backbone organization for the Denver/Boulder Thrive Outside region. Backbone organizations serve as the coordinating bodies within Thrive Outside regions that bring together diverse stakeholders and lead synchronized efforts towards the network's common goal.

"Due to the abundant recreation opportunities and outdoor equity barriers in certain areas of Colorado, the Denver and Boulder region is a wonderful fit for Thrive Outside," said Stephanie Maez, Outdoor Foundation executive director. "The VF Foundation's grant renewal will help us address equity and access barriers such as income inequality that prevent diverse youth from accessing the outdoor recreation hotspot that is Colorado's front range. We look forward to leveraging Thrive Outside to develop and nurture partnerships between Boulder County and Denver-based outdoor youth development and environmental organizations."

"Boulder County is a mecca for outdoor recreation and nature connection, yet so many of our communities' youth face barriers to accessing the outdoors and the life-changing benefits that come from an active outdoors lifestyle," said Keith Desrosiers, executive director of Thorne Nature Experience. "Support from the VF Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation will help Throne and the more than 20 organizations we partner with through our Nature Kids/Jovenes de la Naturaleza collective impact program to address the geographic, financial, language, and many other barriers that currently lead to inequitable access to the outdoors in our community."

For more information on the Thrive Outside Initiative, visit https://outdoorindustry.org/participation/thrive-outside/.