Giving Back to Forces for Outdoor Good

On Election Day, I had an idea: what if I donated $1  for every person who sent me a photo of them voting? I set a limit of $100, because I’m just one human, and put it out into the world. It felt like a nice idea, but nothing major. Soon, my mom called: “Katie, I want to match your donation!” – and suddenly I had $200 to give. Then, a stranger also wanted to match my $100. And another, and another.

I will admit, it felt a little bizarre to have folks trust me blindly with their money like that, but by the end of the election, we had a total of $1,200 in a community-sourced pot to give back. I asked folks to suggest places to donate, had a few in mind of my own, and began distributing the funds with the intention of finding organizations that are doing good for: outdoor communities, young people, the environment, and policy work.

Below is a list of the organizations and efforts we donated to. Donations were made in $100 increments, and I tried to stretch our funds even further by giving when donations were being matched too (you’ll see a * where it was matched).

Where we donated:

  • Outdoor Afro:* Founded by one my the outdoor industry heroes, Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro is “the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature.” Rue started it as a Facebook group to connect her community, and it has grown into a nationwide force that hosts meet-ups across the country, facilitates leadership training, and dives into policy advocacy to promote access to the outdoors and healthy communities.
  • Indigenous Women Hike: IWH is “a collective of Paiute women on a journey to reconnect with our landscape and heal our bodies through healthy lifestyle changes.” The founder, Jolie Valera, is currently gathering gear and donations to create a community gear library for families and folks to use to equip them with the supplies they need to safely access outdoor activities like camping and climbing.
  • Southeast Conservation Corps: I first met the SECC folks years ago during a road trip around the southeast visiting different outdoor groups and brands, and was enamored by the idea of the good work they do in the area I first fell so deeply in love with climbing and the outdoors. Specifically, this donation went to their first-ever ASL youth program, which will be “the first of its kind in the Southeast region and will increase opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing youth to work outside, learn job and leadership-development skills, learn outdoor skills, and gain technical conservation field experience to increase their career opportunities.”
  • Get Out Stay Out:* The tagline says it all “Vamos afuera.” Founded by Karen Ramos, GOSO “invites kids to run, play, and discover themselves in an outdoor environment. Through experiential education we aim to connect low-income kids of indigenous migrant backgrounds to the ‘outdoor culture.'” Full transparency, I feel a lot of gratitude and personal debt to Karen for being such an inspiration to me in being loud and proud about my Latinx identity, so it felt important to give back to her work.
  • North Valley Animal Disaster Relief: This California based non-profit works with emergency services to educate the public about disaster preparedness, and assist in sheltering and evacuation of animals during a disaster. Currently their efforts are focused on animal rescue and relief after the California wildfires that displaced thousands of humans and animals.
  • Utah Dine Bikeyah: Even a year after Trump’s declaration to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by 85%, this remains one of the most requested causes to donate to (which makes this Utah gal very proud). Utah Dine Bikeyah is the force behind the movement to protect Bears Ears and “works toward healing of people and the Earth by supporting indigenous communities in protecting their culturally significant, ancestral lands.”
  • The Nature Conservancy:* TNC is one of the more popular ‘big’ outdoor advocacy non-profits, though I will admit that aside from knowing they do a lot of good stuff, I wasn’t clear on their mission and work. My former boss recently joined the TNC team, and I have been floored learning about what they do. It’s badass. The Nature Conservancy’s four main mission pillars are: tackle climate change, protect land and water, provide food and water sustainably, and build healthy cities.
  •  OUT There Adventures: This group focuses on empowering queer young people through their connection with the natural world. As a woman who saw zero space for my queer identity within the outdoor space until very recently, I love this mission of celebrating both who we are and the wild spaces that help us form so much of our selves. If you’ve ever heard founder Elyse Rylander talk about her “kiddos,” you know how loved and supported every young person who goes on an OUT There Adventures trip is.
  • Trans/queer Migrant Caravan: This donation was a bit unlike the others, as this was a direct Venmo payment to Joshua Allen, a friend-of-a-friend who is directly working with the trans/queer folx in the migrant caravan seeking asylum in the US. Walking across Central America on foot and camping to survive is the epitome of outdoorsy, and as the daughter of a political refugee, I wanted to support those currently hoping for a better future in the US.
  • Outdoor Alliance:* Full disclosure, I work with Outdoor Alliance a bit and that’s precisely why I wanted to give back to ’em. Supporting direct policy work is a priority for me, and I have seen the power and efficacy of Outdoor Alliance’s efforts first-hand in DC. It’s a small team doing big work. Outdoor Alliance “works to protect the places we ski, hike, climb, paddle, and bike. We bring together the voices of America’s outdoor recreation community to protect the outdoor experience for everyone to enjoy.”
  • Everglades Foundation:* Florida doesn’t get enough love from the outdoor community, and my homestate’s beautiful aquatic-based environment is in deep crisis right now due to an algae bloom that is poisoning the water, killing wildlife, and doing immeasurable damage to the ecosystem. Everglades Foundation is one of the orgs fighting tooth and nail to cure the crisis and protect my little manatee friends.
  • Save The Boundary Waters:* Traveling through Minnesota and the Great Lakes area during my solo trip this month reminded me that the upper midwest (is that the proper geographical identifier?) is another area that doesn’t get enough love and support from the outdoor community. The Boundary Waters Conservation Area is an incredible landscape under direct and immediate threat, and needs all the support and awareness it can get.

With six of the organizational donations matched, our total community funds contributed $1800 back to doing good in the world. Thank you all for giving, for trusting, for being part of a tiny slice of light in a time when its easy to get wrapped up in all the darkness. I truly love you all so much, and am so proud of this community. 

PS: If you want to see the receipts, I gotchu. Just ask!

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