Our core purpose is to help our members and customers have rich outdoor experiences while leading active, healthy lives. However, this has become more difficult in recent years, especially with our nation’s youth. According to the Outdoor Foundation, the amount of time American young people spend outdoors continues to decrease. But, reversing the trends can create benefits for children’s health and well-being, according to research conducted by the Children & Nature Network.
As a result, many of REI’s community efforts are focused on making it easy and fun to be in the outdoors. In 2010, our outreach efforts included hosting a variety of informative outdoor classes; continuing the successful Family Adventure Program (designed to help get children and their families into the outdoors); offering REI’s Outdoor School in several markets; and facilitating equipment rentals through local Gear Banks, which allow people to gear up for an outdoor activity for the first time free of charge.
Our efforts at the national and local levels are focused on getting children and their families active and connected with nature to foster a new generation of environmental stewards and outdoor enthusiasts. Some of the specific outcomes from our work in 2010 include the following:
Connecting 307,805 youth and 56,204 adults to new outdoor recreational activities
1,976 youth were served by REI’s Gear Bank free loan program, totaling 18,264 youth supported since the program’s inception.
180,000 youth participated in REI’s Family Adventure Program, by receiving an adventure journal through our local outreach efforts and accessing local trail and nature information at rei.com
REI continues to explore new and innovative strategies to use our diverse resources as a co-op to reverse the trend of decreased participation in outdoor activities, especially among young people. Despite having a wide variety of programs to address various community outdoor recreation needs, it is a logistical and resource challenge to adequately support and achieve success in all of the programs. For example, we continue to face challenges in supporting our Gear Bank gear loan program due to infrastructure limitations in our rental programs, which places strains on staffing and storage.
We recognize and acknowledge that philanthropic resources are not the co-op’s best tool to address all of the barriers to participating in outdoor recreation. As a result, we have undertaken an initiative led by a member of REI’s leadership team to evaluate changes and additions to our business that will increase participation in the outdoors.
The 2011 Family Adventure Program represents our most concentrated effort to date led by our stores and outreach teams to drive increased participation in outdoor recreation. We look forward to using this program to engage more people with the outdoors and learning from our efforts in 2011 to continue refining and improving our strategy for 2012.