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REI Foundation Funds Initiative to Get More Kids Outside

It has been widely reported that children are not as engaged in outdoor recreation compared to previous generations. As an outdoor retailer dedicated to increasing participation, how do we connect the next generation to the wonders of nature?

The REI Foundation, the nonprofit organization supported by REI, is committed to reversing this trend by partnering with nonprofits across the country with youth programs that offer hands-on engagement and exploration of the outdoors. One such organization, Seattle-based The Mountaineers, was recently awarded $50,000 through The REI Foundation's Mary Anderson Legacy Grant.

The Mountaineers logoFounded in 1906, The Mountaineers' mission is to "enrich the community by helping people explore, conserve, learn about and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest." As part of its Youth and Family Initiative, the organization strives to instill an appreciation for outdoor adventure in today's youth, recognizing the remarkable opportunity to shape the future of youth education, recreation and conservation in the Pacific Northwest.

Since launching its youth-oriented pilot programs in 2010, approximately 400 volunteers have provided more than 2,000 outdoor experiences for local children – from pulling invasive species in Seattle's Magnuson Park to hiking to Talapus Lake in the Cascades. The grant from The REI Foundation will help expand staff and volunteer resources, provide scholarship support to grow its programs, broaden its offerings outside of the greater Seattle area and provide outdoor experiences to more children.

Mary Anderson, cofounder of REIMary Anderson, who recently celebrated her 102nd birthday, co-founded REI with her husband Lloyd and 21 climbing buddies in 1938. The grant was created in recognition of Mary's love for the outdoors and work in helping her students and other children explore nature. The annual Mary Anderson Legacy Grant supports organizations that share her passions, including the inaugural recipient NatureBridge.

The historical connection between The Mountaineers and REI's founders dates back to the 1930s. According to The Mountaineers' archives, three years prior to founding REI, Lloyd and Mary enrolled in the nonprofit's first basic climbing course, later helping to establish the structure of the course that has produced thousands of trained climbers since it began 75 years ago. The Andersons also served on The Mountaineers' board.

Learn more about The Mountaineers and how to volunteer to help introduce more kids to the outdoors at

Photo below courtesy of The Mountaineers.

Posted on at 2:18 PM

Tagged: REI Foundation, The Mountaineers, children, seattle and volunteer

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That's awesome. I once helped a scout leader in Phildelphia belay his scouts at a climbing gym. This entire group of boys around 12 years old were all seriously overweight. They lived on junk food and video games. And they were boy scouts! Aren't they supposed to be doing all sorts of outdoor activities? As a mother, it was troubling to see what condition these boys were in. I think it is so important that children not only get outdoors, but learn to appreciate nature so they grow up to be adults who respect the environment and take care of our planet.

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Gabe K

I am a teacher and would love to implement some kind of program for children to get out more. For five summers I have volunteered for the National Park Service as an interpretive park ranger for outreach education programs and try to share my experiences with my students hoping to inspire them to get outdoors. Having the opportunity to do a grass roots program such as this where I live would be empowering, full-filling, and enlightening to say the least.

My girlfriend (also a teacher) and I are seeking opportunities during our summer off to get involved in programs like this, any leads would be great! We are willing to travel to the location in exchange for food and lodging. Send them to me at


This is encouraging! My organic gardening business has been seeking a grant for exactly this reason; we want to build a children's garden in the community garden lot and teach workshops about growing food, planting to attract pollinators, organic methods of sustainability for kids and their families the entire spring, summer and fall. I understand REI is not interested in unsolicited grants, but I hope we can connect with someone else like minded. For more information on our idea, please visit our website: And thank you for the wonderful generosity!


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