Around the middle of last week, I got a surprise in the mail. Through their TNFLocals program, The North Face sent my daughter Sara and I a pair of backpacks to use together on outdoor hikes and other expeditions. I wasn’t expecting this at all but it just underscores what an awesome organization The North Face has been to work with.
Even better than the free backpacks is the note that came with them about the North Face’s #givepack campaign. Here’s the deal: Any backpacks purchased from the North Face in July and August will help Big City Mountaineers mentor underserved youth on wilderness expeditions.
I wasn’t familiar with Big City Mountaineers until Sara and I got our backpacks. But when I did a little more research on their organization, I was really impressed. They’ve been around for 25 years and their mission is to instill critical life skills in underserved urban youth through transformative wilderness mentoring expeditions.
I always tell people that I’m extremely lucky to live where I do. Even though I’m only a little over a half hour away from downtown Chicago, my specific town hasn’t been developed yet. It’s surrounded by farmlands and is only a short drive away from a number of national and state parks, a and variety of forests, lakes, rivers, and other types of waterways. I’m happy that Sara is able to grow up with an appreciation for nature and that she’s already enthusiastic about exploring the outdoors.
This puts us in the minority though. There’s a large segment of the population that doesn’t have easy access to the types of places that we sometimes take for granted. Many kids in the inner city grow up without ever leaving their local area and getting a chance to see some of the natural beauty that the world has to offer.
That’s where organizations like Big City Mountaineers come in.
The core Big City Mountaineers program is a week-long wilderness mentoring expedition where urban youth aged 13 to 18 are given the opportunity to experience the beauty and challenges of the wilderness alongside supportive adult mentors. The program sets up one on one pairings between teens and adults (one of the only programs of its kind to do so). It also follows a documented and well-tested progression of experiences coupled with opportunities for reflection and learning.
The overall goals of the program are to help teens develop a respect and love for the outdoors and preservation of wilderness, and also to improve teen self awareness and personal responsibility as well as helping to develop effective communication skills, self esteem, and resilience…. The idea is that these things will lead improved health, happiness, increased likeliness to stay in school, reduced drug use and violence and ultimately to future life success.
Big City Mountaineers also partners with existing youth development agencies to better address the ongoing needs of under-resourced youth.
As far as demographics go:
- 71% of the teens served by Big City Mountaineers are from single parent or guardian-led households.
- 83% are from families living below the poverty line.
- 80% have parents with no more than a high school education.
- 62% have never traveled beyond their county of residence.
Big City Mountaineers also offers Summit for Someone Charity climbs, which benefit their mission. Each year, hundreds of climbers fund-raise and then ascend some of the worlds most breathtaking mountains (Mt. Rainier, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Hood, etc…), all in the name of supporting and raising awareness of the programs offered by Big City Mountaineers.
I’m really thankful that organizations like Big City Mountaineers exist and I’m glad that companies like The North Face are willing to hold campaigns like #givepack to support them.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of July and that back to school shopping is right around the corner. If you have a son or daughter who needs a new backpack for school, make sure to keep The North Face and Big City Mountaineers in mind.