2021 KEEN Effect Kids Grants: Small Is Powerful
By Mark Steinbuck, KEEN Philanthropy Manager
This summer will be one for the brooks.* And the rivers, oceans, and lakes. And even the forests, prairies, glaciers, city streets, and curbstrip gardens. This summer will be a time for healing everywhere outside.
Over one year into an unprecedented global pandemic, kids all over are also facing an unprecedented pent up excitement to play, smile, and get messy outside. Of course many of us have found ways to get outside in the past year — according to our friends at Leave No Trace, more than ever before. In fact, adventuring outside has become the substitute for so many ceiling-based activities that it prompted us to remind people to Take Care Out There, and #recreateresponsibly.
But this is not everyone’s experience. For so many kids, access to a safe and inclusive outside is a struggle born of myriad barriers, both individual and systemic: public infrastructures that are un-accommodating to disabilities, chronic violence in public spaces, financial insecurity, childcare deserts, compromised immune systems, and the long, ongoing injustice of Indigenous land dispossession.
Sure, it’s fair to say our KEEN Effect Kids Grant program is too small to change the world. This year we are helping about 1,800 kids get outside out of the 74 million kids across the United States. (That’s .002% if you want the math.) Small, indeed. But so are kids, and they are going to change the world no matter what.
Like microscopic orchid seeds (some tinier than dust) seeking the canopy of the tallest tropical rainforest trees, the epiphytes of our grant program will sail the wind, climb the trees, drink the rain, establish roots, and emerge as some of nature’s most beautiful ideas.
Best to believe that small can be powerful.
*Dad joke validated and approved by independently verified super cool Dad.
MEET OUR NEWEST GRANTEES!
Chicago Adventure Therapy, Chicago, IL
The All Outside program provides access to local natural spaces and adventure sports for underserved Chicago youth, inspiring a new generation of outdoor stewards and enthusiasts. These experiences help a group of racially and socioeconomically diverse youth realize their power and potential to effect positive change for the environment and in their communities.
Kids outside: 260
CorpsTHAT, Baltimore, MD
The Deaf-Centric Conservation Corps is providing stewardship programs for Deaf youth to experience the outdoors through conservation work. Based in Baltimore, MD, these programs use an experiential education focus related to conservation, outdoor, and filmmaking skills to promote self confidence, acceptance, and advocacy while connecting to the outdoors.
Kids outside: 240
Elevate Youth, Boston, MA
Elevate Youth will enhance and expand equitable access to innovative outdoor programming for youth in underserved communities throughout Boston, through thoughtful collaboration with community partners, a multifaceted approach to health & wellness, and a focus on inspiring a sense of awe in nature close to home.
Kids outside: 250
Georgia Audubon Society, Atlanta, GA
The Atlanta Urban Ecologists program guides teens through an 8-month exploration of the fascinating, rich ecology of metro Atlanta, providing opportunities for hands-on field experiences, conservation, and community science, while also establishing a network of environmental professionals who can assist with their academic and career development.
Kids outside: 50
GirlVentures, Oakland, CA
Based in the Bay Area of California, the “Increasing Outdoor Access and Building Environmental Stewardship for Underserved Girls” Project equips middle and high school girls to be leaders and environmental stewards, integrating a social-emotional and environmental literacy curriculum into hands-on recreation activities including backpacking, rock climbing, and sea kayaking.
Kids outside: 200
Glacier Peak Institute, Darrington, WA
The STrEAM Project empowers underserved school districts in rural Washington to integrate the outdoors into lesson planning and develop research projects. These after-school programs harness the transformative impact of the outdoors through youth participating in stewardship while river rafting, canoeing, backpacking, foraging, mountain biking, and more.
Kids outside: 350
Happiness Is Camping, Blairstown, NJ
The Outdoor Education project brings immunocompromised children with cancer outside and out of isolation. The aim of this project is to reintroduce children with cancer to nature, giving them the freedom to explore and learn about the natural world around them.
Kids outside: 85
Honor the Earth, Callaway, MN
Centered on Ojibwe lands in Callaway, MN, the Minobimaatisiiwin Project (which translates to "Good Life" or "continuous rebirth") brings together Indigenous youth with traditional harvesters of Indigenous foods in order to educate them on traditional practices and cultural teachings, preparing them as the next generation of harvesters to preserve their way of life.
Kids outside: 50
Youth Garden Project, Moab, UT
For nine weeks during summer break, the Youth Garden Project in Moab, Utah, runs a full-day, outdoor summer camp for 1st - 6th graders based in and around a magical 1.5-acre organic garden space. Summer campers spend all day learning, playing, and exploring, using the garden and surrounding natural areas as outdoor learning labs.
Kids outside: 350
For every cause, there's an effect. We call it The KEEN Effect. Every KEEN boot, sandal, or sneaker purchased has a positive effect, funding programs to make the outdoors and trades more accessible to all. Now in its 8th year, our kids grant program funds the best grassroots organizations immersing kids in the outdoors. Our partners have brought thousands of youth outside for recreation, nature-based education, and environmental stewardship, actively building a future full of formative experiences and lasting values built in nature — 133,713 kids outside and counting. Learn more here.