This year 2,424 people will have the opportunity to get outside, many for the first time, and explore America’s waterways. The influx of participation is a result of the Paddle Nation Grant Program, an initiative connecting young people to their rivers, streams, lakes and oceans, funded by Outdoor Retailer, National Park Service and many paddle-sport manufacturers, retailers and stakeholders.
Outdoor Chattanooga and Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga received $4,000 to support their work to engage inner city youth in the sport of kayaking and exploration of the Tennessee River Blueway. In coordination with Booker T. Washington State Park, a group of 15 inner city youth will meet once per week for five weeks to develop their kayaking skills in the park’s swimming pool. After participants have completed the skill-building classes and have boosted their confidence in the water, they will embark on a 6-mile paddle trip that will showcase the connectivity of the Tennessee River Blueway, a National Scenic Riverway, and experience two State Parks in the Chattanooga-area. In addition, participants will receive their own personal life jacket and get access to Outdoor Chattanooga paddling trips.
Terri Chapin, Program Coordinator with Outdoor Chattanooga, “I’m very excited that Paddle Nation has awarded our organization this grant. The funding will enable Outdoor Chattanooga to have a greater community impact. I’m looking forward to working with the youth to get them excited about the various paddling opportunities in our area, especially the scenic Tennessee River Blueway.”
Unique in the outdoor industry, the Paddle Nation Grant Program was launched in 2012 with financial support and leadership from Outdoor Retailer and many companies in the paddle-sport industry, including Confluence Outdoor, Johnson Outdoors, Rutabaga Paddlesports, OARS, BIC Sports, Glenbrook, Advanced Elements, River Sport Outfitters and ACK. Leveraging this industry support, the National Park Service joined as a major funder in 2013, significantly expanding the grant program. Since 2012, 87 projects have been funded with more than $237,000 given to noteworthy projects. Working with nearly 60 different retailers, 16,170 individuals have gotten outside on waterways, including 11,021 youth. In total, 196,267 hours have been spent outside paddling. “The Outdoor Foundation believes that bringing innovative outdoor projects to life will dramatically increase outdoor participation,” said Ivan Levin, deputy director of the Outdoor Foundation. “Through these Paddle Nation Grants, young people across the country will explore rivers, lakes and streams through a variety of activities—resulting in a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards.” 2018 nonprofit grant recipients include: Baltimore Heritage Area Association, Inc.; Black Butte School; Colorado River School; Families in Nature; National Park Trust, Inc.; Outdoor Chattanooga and Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga; and Regional Fitness Center.
The Outdoor Foundation Founded in 2000, the Outdoor Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor leaders and enthusiasts. Through youth engagement, community grant-making, and groundbreaking research, the Foundation works with young leaders and partners to mobilize a major cultural shift that leads all Americans to the great outdoors. In seven years, the Foundation has invested more than $5 million into 930 not-for-profit and college programs that have connected more than 262,000 young people to the outdoors. Importantly, 90¢ of every dollar goes directly into this critical work. Visit us at outdoorfoundation.org and outdoornation.org for more information.