Thrive Outside San Diego: Connecting with the outdoors during COVID-19

April 8, 2020

In its first year, The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Community Initiative has made multi-year grants to four regions across the country (San Diego, Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Grand Rapids) to build and strengthen networks focused on providing children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors.  Our communities are finding unique ways to positively impact their communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

We’re proud to share the innovative work from our Thrive Outside San Diego Community through one of their leading organizations Outdoor Outreach.

“Our youth need connection now more than ever. In this unprecedented time, young people are especially impacted by a lack of resources, feelings of uncertainty and fear, and separation from supportive role models and peers. This is even more true for the teens we serve, many of whom are affected by poverty, abuse, family dysfunction, and chronic health conditions.

Outdoor Outreach is committed to helping our participants thrive through the COVID-19 crisis. Our programs look different right now, but the focus of our work hasn’t changed: building support systems that help youth face adversity in their lives with strength and courage. Instructors can’t lead group outings in the outdoors, so they’re innovating ways to maintain critical connection with youth including virtual meetings and leadership trainings, live-streamed mindfulness and physical wellness activities, and youth-led community outreach promoting responsible outdoor activities.

Our Leadership Program is a great example. When social distancing measures were implemented just one week into the 12-week program, participants insisted that we shouldn’t cancel or reschedule. They wanted to meet on the phone or through video conferencing to stay connected, share challenges and resources, and provide much needed support for their peers.

For most participants, the Leadership Program is their only extracurricular activity still meeting during the crisis. The teens are combating feelings of social isolation through twice-weekly virtual meetings and learning to safely enjoy outdoor spaces by practicing OO’s 10 Principles of Getting Outside Responsibly During COVID-19. Reporting a new appreciation for little things that nearby nature has to offer–like a cool breeze on their face and time watching the clouds with family–participants have taken leadership in their communities by encouraging friends and family to adopt the same principles and to meet-up virtually instead of in-person. 

I’m proud of our team for helping youth gain a sense of agency over their circumstances and maintain resilience through the COVID-19 crisis. I encourage you to visit our website, follow us on social media, and, if you can, make a gift to support connection for youth who desperately need it.”

Ben McCue
Executive Director
Outdoor Outreach