Know a non-profit that helps get kids outdoors? Now they can get a step closer to this lofty goal. Kicking off its 2011 funding cycle with $250,000 in grants, The North Face recently announced the opening of registration for its 2011 Explore Fund™ (www.explorefund.org), a grant-giving program supporting nonprofit community organizations that break down the barriers to getting youth outdoors.
Introduced in 2010, the Explore Fund was established to inspire and enable the next generation of explorers by funding nonprofit organizations that are working to re-connect children with nature. For 2011, the $250,000 Explore Fund will be distributed in two phases, with $125,000 in funding allocated to projects during the spring (through April 15) and another $125,000 given out in the fall (through October 5).
“Creating a stronger connection between youth and the outdoors is something we are very passionate about at The North Face” says Brook Shinsky, outdoor participation & community development manager for The North Face. “We believe that consistent and frequent exposure to the outdoors in the formative years of a young person’s life is not only great for their physical health, but is vital in developing character, confidence, a sense of adventure and respect for the environment into their adulthood. We’re very excited about this program and hope to empower more youth through the Explore Fund.”
The North Face introduced the Explore Fund as part of the company’s mission to encourage an active healthy lifestyle and to generate greater support and protection of our natural landscapes by creating a stronger connection with the outdoors. Grants of up to $2,500 will be awarded to organizations that create connections of children to nature, increase access to both front and backcountry recreation, and provide education for both personal and environmental health.
In 2010, more than $300,000 in funds was granted to organizations such as Colorado-based cooperatives Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) and Choose Outdoors℠, both of which focus on bringing sports like skiing and snowboarding to youth who normally don’t have access to outdoor experiences. The Explore Fund helped the BOEC support 50 special needs children on the slopes through their Adaptive Ski and Ride Program. Funding also was used to sponsored part of the Choose Outdoors 4th annual “Rail Yard” event, which brought freestyle snowboarding exposure to the multicultural, urban families of Denver.
Other grantees include Teens to Trails (T3) from Edgecomb, ME and Trips for Kids® (TFK) of Mill Valley, CA. Both focused on creating opportunities for youth to engage in the great outdoors as a necessary part of their health and overall well-being. T3 used their funding to do just that by creating 10 brand new “Outing Clubs” in various Maine high schools and contributing additional funds to improve 10 other already existing clubs. TFK used their grant to change the lives of 377 underserved Bay Area kids who took part in mountain biking adventures and environmental education discussions.
Applications for Phase I of the Explore Fund (www.explorefund.org) are now being accepted online through April 15, 2011. Submissions will be vetted by a youth advisory council and issues experts, and the most promising projects will be announced on May 15, 2011.