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Outdoor Foundation Announces Four New Thrive Outside Communities

May 24, 2021

Media Contact

Andriana Rogers
Outdoor Industry Association
Phone: 720.629.3542

Thrive Outside Initiative Empowers Communities to Make the Outdoors Accessible for All

BOULDER, Colo. (May 24, 2021) —Outdoor Foundation, the organization dedicated to reversing the trend of decreased outdoor participation, today announced its second cohort of Thrive Outside Communities in St. Louis, Missouri; the Twin Cities region, Minnesota; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the state of Maine. 

The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative awards multi-year, capacity-building grants to diverse communities to build and strengthen networks that provide children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors. This community-led initiative is built with trusted local and national partners and is supported by three years of funding.

“The Thrive Outside Initiative is working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all,” said Stephanie Maez, Outdoor Foundation executive director. “We are thrilled to expand our grants and programming into four additional communities this year and inspire kids and families to experience the powerful transformative benefits of connecting with nature on a regular basis, particularly among youth in diverse communities.”

The Thrive Outside Communities were chosen by the Outdoor Foundation Board of Directors, based on written applications, virtual site visits, in-person interviews and third-party consultant research. Each Thrive Outside Community grant requires the recipient community to provide a 1-to-1 funding match in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the network. One backbone organization in each community will manage the grant and facilitate the work of the network partners.

“Working with all of our community partners, we are making a significant impact by empowering youth to enjoy spending more time in nature,” said Jen Mull Neuhaus, Outdoor Foundation Board Chair. “The expansion of The Thrive Outside Initiative this year moves us one step closer to our goal of driving positive change in the health, well-being and social fabric of communities across the country.”

Announced in 2019, The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Community Initiative made multi-year grants to four communities including Atlanta, Georgia; Grand Rapids, Michigan; San Diego, California; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To date the Thrive Outside initiative has helped get more than 16,000 youth outdoors while creating stronger networks of equity and inclusion, improving the connections to the outdoors in diverse communities and successfully adapting programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next ten years, the initiative plans to grow the number of regions it invests in to 32.

Continue reading for more information about each new Thrive Outside Community:


“In our Maine outdoor community, collaboration is key in our approach to increasing outdoor participation. We are thankful for the Outdoor Foundation and Thrive Outside for recognizing this and supporting local initiatives in Maine to provide equitable access to outdoor learning and outdoor gear for youth in both urban and rural areas across the state, said Nathan Broaddus, coordinator of the Nature Based Education Consortium. “This award is a crucial catalyst in addressing barriers that many under-resourced communities face to having transformative experiences in the outdoors, with innovations such as an outdoor equity fund and Maine GearShare, an outdoor equipment lending system.”

Maine Backbone Organization: Nature Based Education Consortium

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Instilling a love of nature by ensuring all families can safely enjoy the outdoors is critical to inspiring the next generation of conservationists,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of National Wildlife Federation. “Working with Thrive Outside will strengthen amazing conservation partnerships across the Delaware watershed to overcome the unique barriers our communities experience in getting outdoors. We are excited to team up with Thrive Outside to expand access to the outdoors for Black, Latinx, and frontline communities and implement on-the-ground activities that ensure everyone is able to safely enjoy nature.”

Philadelphia Backbone Organization: National Wildlife Federation

St. Louis, Missouri

“The St. Louis region offers some of the most unique natural spaces and inspiring recreational opportunities anywhere. So why hasn’t every kid in our community kayaked past the Gateway Arch on the Mississippi River or climbed the boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park? Through River City Outdoors, we are activating an inclusive network of community partners that shatters barriers to access and empowers all St. Louisans to experience the transformative power of nature in our own backyard,” said Rachel Bartels, River City Outdoors steering committee member.

“We’ve been working for the past seven years to accelerate the outdoor recreation culture in the St. Louis region through Terrain Magazine, and now with the launch of River City Outdoors, we’re excited to gather that momentum and truly transform St. Louis into a vibrant, inclusive, outdoor community,” said Brad Kovach, editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine and River City Outdoors steering committee member. “This grant, and the additional support and leverage that comes with it, will allow us to maintain the great momentum we’ve gathered and focus it on creating diverse and equitable outdoor programs in our region.”

St. Louis Backbone Organization: River City Outdoor Collaborative

Twin Cities, Minnesota

“Wilderness Inquiry is thrilled to partner with the Outdoor Foundation to support a collective impact approach to youth outdoor engagement in the Twin Cities, breaking down barriers to access to ensure that all youth can learn, grow, and thrive in the outdoors,” said Executive Director Kim Keprios. “Thrive Outside Twin Cities provides an incredible opportunity to build meaningful, equitable pathways to outdoor participation for Minnesota youth and families.”

Twin Cities Backbone Organization: Wilderness Inquiry


About Outdoor Foundation
The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association, is a national 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to getting people outside for their health, the health of communities and the health of the outdoor industry. Through community investment and groundbreaking research, the Outdoor Foundation works with partners across the country to address equity barriers and help make the outdoors accessible for all. Visit for more information.