New Cohort of Grantees Fosters Outdoor Connection

A little boy smiles while leaning on a tree stump in the woods
Photo courtesy of Backyard Basecamp

In 2021, the National Recreation Foundation (NRF) and Tom’s of Maine (TOM) decided to work together to ensure that the next generation of kids has more equitable access to outdoor recreation and education experiences than their predecessors. TOM committed three million dollars over three years to help NRF support cohorts of grantees that work to make outdoor recreation opportunities safe, accessible, and enjoyable for everyone. NRF and TOM have already welcomed two cohorts and approximately 20 organizations into the program since 2021. Now, we’re excited to bring in another cohort of 14 grantees and support them in their efforts to get kids outside and create a more welcoming and diverse outdoor community.

A young girl sits in front of a desert landscape painting
Photo courtesy of Atabey Outdoors

Our collaboration with TOM is focused on access and equity and every grantee organization has something important to contribute in striving for justice. This new cohort of grantees has a particular focus on serving youth whose identities may have led them to face barriers in outdoor recreation or feel othered in outdoor spaces. These barriers and experiences are not a direct result of holding marginalized identities of course, but of the social stigmas and structural injustices present in the outdoor community and the U.S. more largely. In this cohort, two communities of particular focus are youth of color, especially Black and Indigenous youth, and LGBTQ+ youth.

A student rock climbs with arms below her offering support
Photo courtesy of Bridge Chattanooga

The new cohort includes $405,000 in funding allocated to the following organizations: Atabey Outdoors, Backyard Basecamp, Bridge Chattanooga, CatRock Ventures, Coombs Outdoors, Duamish River Community Coalition, IDEA Public Schools, Native Like Water, Rios to Rivers, See You at the Top, Sol Outdoors, Sherwood Forest, Western National Parks Association, and Wild Diversity. These organizations provide outdoor recreation experiences such as skiing, hiking, surfing, paddling, backpacking, and camping. They also help youth in their programs with holistic learning through a focus on areas of competency like leadership skills, cultural knowledge, environmental efficacy, and community connection.

Three people sit in canoes and smile at the camera
Photo courtesy of Wild Diversity

We’re excited to welcome these grantees into our TOM cohort program, share our resources, and learn from them about the work they do and the communities they serve. NRF’s commitment to grantees goes beyond a promise of funding. While money is an important resource, we want to invest in the long-term success of the organizations we work with and their staff members. Therefore, in addition to funding we also offer our grantees professional development workshops, evaluation support from top researchers in the field, and networking and support structures within their cohort.

Over the past year and a half, our collaboration with TOM and the grantees we’ve been able to serve through its generous funding have been an exciting part of the work we do at NRF. This next cohort of grantees also is engaged in critical and meaningful work. We’re looking forward to building relationships with each organization and supporting the incredible work they do in their communities to bring more kids into the outdoors.