Later this week I'll be setting out on a new adventure, as a volunteer for Big City Mountaineers, hitting the trails in Yosemite National Park with 4 other adult volunteers and 6 teenage girls from Oakland, California.
I'm so excited to go backpacking for a whole week, and especially to have the time and the opportunity to do this at this point in my life. I got an email tonight from one of the girls saying they were really looking forward to the trip. So that's why I'm doing it.
When I lived in Chicago, I was a mentor to a 6th grade girl for about a year who had a keen interest in nature. It made us a good match, because I was also looking for some "green time" in the midst of city living. We built a campfire at a park district park (in a fire ring), went hiking at our local nature center, went to the nature museum (yeah, kind of weird, but cool place) where we took a guided tour of their rooftop garden and she asked some really tough questions about how it cooled the building and how the drainage worked, and we also spent a weekend at a camp in Michigan and she got to go canoeing for the first time.
The summer after I left Chicago, and shed some tears about leaving my mentee, I was working with some teens in Hartford, CT, and one of the girls offhandedly said one day that she really wanted to go hiking and camping. It stuck with me--young women growing up in the city without the opportunity to get out and take advantage of wilderness areas, for lack of money, gear, knowledge, or mentors. I knew that providing that opportunity was something I wanted to do.
I checked into BMC and really liked their approach. They send an even ratio of adult mentors to youth. They also believe in program evaluation, and since I'm a program evaluator, I like that. The program works. It gives kids a lot more than a week on the trail. Also, by garnering the support of the outdoor industry and backpackers, they're able to increase the capacity of many inner city youth serving organizations that would otherwise not be able to offer weeklong backcountry trips to their youth. The young women I'm hiking with are from the East Oakland Boxing Association.
I'm hoping to raise about $250 which will support 5 girls out on the trail for a day. I won't be blogging for the next week and a half as I'm making my way out west, so I'm hoping in that time you consider making a small donation to support us. $10 would be great. If 25 people can give $10 each, I'll be up to $250 in no time. If you want to give a little more, I'll consider it my birthday gift. If I raise $200 then I get my $100 trip fee back, but I'm going to turn that around and give it back to BMC, so consider it a matching gift. Keen Footwear is also matching donations. Click here to support us out on the trail.
And if you're interested in doing more to get city kids out in the backcountry, check into volunteering as a trip leader or raising funds through their Summit for Someone (you get to climb a mountain and get a bunch of cool gear for free). If you can 't commit to a full week or a summit, but are still interested...look into the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings which gets kids out for the day.
I'll share pictures when I get home! Enjoy mid-August!