The Outdoor Foundation Aims to Get More Kids and Families Outside

The Thrive Outside Initiative brings together local Oklahoma City organizations to make getting outside part of the fabric of peoples’ lives by providing repeat experiences of fun, joy and learning in the outdoors for kids and families of all backgrounds.

Oklahoma City has been chosen as one of four communities in the Outdoor Foundation's nationwide Thrive Outside Community Initiative. In Oklahoma City, the initiative will provide a multi-year capacity-building grant to strengthen partnerships between existing local organizations such as schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs and nonprofit conservation and outdoor organizations that create repeat and reinforcing positive outdoor experiences for kids and families. Fewer than 18 percent of Americans recreate outside once per week, and fewer than 50 percent report getting outside even once per year, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s Outdoor Participation Report. Research also shows that outdoor activity participation does not mirror the overall demographics of our country. The core goal of the Thrive Outside Community investments is to create healthy individuals, communities, economies and environments by making the outdoors a habit for kids and families of all backgrounds.

“We are both honored and excited to be chosen as an Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Community as we work to encourage a cultural shift toward more active, outdoor lifestyles,” said Mike Knopp, executive director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. “We believe the grant will have a profound, generational impact in the greater Oklahoma City metro area and will act as a catalyst for others to invest in this effort. We appreciate the engagement and attention of the outdoor industry, as it validates our passionate efforts over the past decade to show how our city can become a leader in the movement outdoors.”

The Thrive Outside Oklahoma City Community will be led by the OKC Boathouse Foundation (OKCBF) together with a broad-based network of partners in infusing an active, outdoor lifestyle among our youth. Oklahoma City’s Thrive Outside network will initially include the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Latino Community Development Agency, Oklahoma City Parks Department, Oklahoma City/County Health Department, OKC Respond, YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, OKC Black Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

“We didn’t become an indoor species overnight, and the decline of outdoor activity in the United States is a problem that requires collaboration, funding and scale,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, Outdoor Foundation executive director. “For a variety of reasons, the days when children were outside playing more than they were inside have passed – this has to change for the health of our children, families and communities. With this grant, we are helping to fuel an outdoor movement in and around Oklahoma City to bring back that connection by supporting local community partners to create a network focused on getting as many children and families as possible experiencing the outdoors in a positive way, so we don’t have anything to lose. Over the next decade, the Outdoor Foundation will connect and engage a diverse constituency of participants, advocates and volunteers in at least 32 cities, with the goal of getting 3 million people outside.”

The Thrive Outside Oklahoma City Community will also work with Native American tribes to implement meaningful paddlesport experiences in Oklahoma City tied to the American Indian Cultural Center, while also activating and inspiring similar exploration and opportunities in tribal nations which are within a short drive of Oklahoma City. To create the outdoor habit in kids and families, Oklahoma City intends to offer the opportunity for every middle school student to engage in paddlesport opportunities as well as hiking, camping, climbing and other outdoor activities. Oklahoma City has spent the past 10 years developing world-class outdoor assets which will be utilized to leverage additional funding to support the long-term goal of creating an outdoor community.

The inaugural Thrive Outside Communities – Atlanta, Georgia; Grand Rapids, Michigan; San Diego, California; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – were chosen by the Outdoor Foundation Board of Directors, based on written applications, location 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.

Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Communities would not be possible without the extremely generous support of The VF Foundation, REI, Patagonia, Thule and Wolverine World Wide, Inc.

In order to grow the number of cities and regions that the Thrive Outside Communities Initiative is able to reach, the Outdoor Foundation will be looking for additional funding partners in 2019. Please reach out to Michaela Gold for more information.