ROCKLAND, ME – Local youth mentoring organization, Trekkers, joins the “Get Into Nature” initiative as one of several programs supported by the National Recreation Foundation made possible by the generous support of Tom’s of Maine. The goal of the three-year, $3 million Get Into Nature initiative, which started in 2021, is to provide funding for outdoor recreation projects aimed at giving children everywhere equitable access to nature, like Trekkers.
“At Tom’s of Maine we believe that our children are the generation that will create a healthy, sustainable, thriving future for our planet. But first, we must ensure they are able to experience and enjoy nature – especially those who don’t have easy access to the outdoors,” said Michelle Waring, Steward for Sustainability and Everyday Good at Tom’s of Maine. “We are proud of our Get Into Nature initiative with National Recreation Foundation that invests in the meaningful work of organizations like Trekkers, bringing the power and magic of nature to young people across the country.”
Kids spend as much as 95 percent of their time indoors, according to a study from National Recreation and Park Association. Outdoor-based programs like Trekkers create opportunities for young people to become more familiar with nature, which has a myriad of mental and physical health benefits. Some 87 percent of children who play and explore outside are more likely to cherish, protect and care for nature when they grow up, according to a study from Frontiers in Psychology.
Trekkers is a six-year mentoring program, whose mission is to help students build skills in resilience, relationships, and aspirations so that they can thrive as adults. The journey starts outside. Students join in seventh grade and form a team of peers. After orientations, these new Trekkers embark on a three-day camping trip to Acadia National Park to canoe, hike, rock climb and camp, building foundational skills and relationships, together with student leaders, volunteer mentors, and staff. Teams continue to meet, plan trips, travel together, do community service, learn about cultures and perspectives, and explore goals and career paths – building life skills like reflection, empathy, and interest in learning. (Learn more about Trekkers impact here.)
This past May the newest seventh grade team, Team Katmai, embarked on their Acadia Expedition. Program Manager, TJ, reports, “The students made me laugh out loud so many times a day! The hike was filled with incredible stories, riddles, songs, and games. When rock climbing, every single person – students and leaders – did something to challenge themselves, even if that was harnessing up or repelling down the side of the cliff. Students came out of their shells, made connections with each other and leaders, tried new and difficult things, and overall, had FUN.”
After the trip, students answered a short anonymous survey. All students said they tried something new, and the vast majority (84 percent) said they pushed themselves outside their comfort zone. Hiking and rock climbing were most reported as the biggest challenge, yet 78 percent of students agreed that they were more interested in spending time in nature.
When students have opportunities to explore outdoors, it can become a place of personal and shared growth. In just one weekend, students practiced physical challenge (like hiking), team collaboration (like setting up a tent), learning about natural resources (like water use for washing camp dishes), and exercised agency and responsibility (to pack and manage equipment). Trekkers is grateful for Tom’s of Maine and National Recreation Foundation’s collaboration in providing these life-changing opportunities for youth. Learn more about Trekkers by visiting trekkers.org.