As the door closed behind me I felt a rush of warm salty wind pour across the marsh now lit by the morning’s photic frontrunners. As I stood on the top stair down to the beach, I could barely see the wetted edge where the mussel beds met the eel grass, but I knew where I was headed: on an adventure with a bucket and net in hand. It was barely 6:00am, and I was hovering around 6 years old with my 7th birthday on the horizon. By now, I had spent countless days fishing with my dad, birdwatching with my grandmother, and exploring our backyard creek and forest with my older brother. I was hooked – hooked on nature, wildlife, and anything I could catch with a net, fishing rod or my little hands.
Fast forward 21 years and I’ve continued to cultivate my passion for the outdoors, nature and love for wildlife and the landscapes that support them. As an ecologist – having earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in ecology from U.C. Berkeley – and freelance storyteller passionate about films, photos and writing anchored to society’s relationship with our rapidly changing natural world I’ve come across something startling: each year fewer and fewer young people have access to nature. I know from personal experience what access to nature can do for a young and developing kid. Those early experiences shaped me into the man I am today, and considering a life without that access and those formative moments would have certainly stifled me, and likely directed me down a path vastly different from the life I have cultivated.
With this in mind, I took a hike with one of my childhood best friends, NFL tight end Cooper Helfet, to explore ways in which we might be able to create an organization that could offer underserved youth the opportunity to have the transformative experiences we had as kids in nature. We took this idea one step further and created The Nature Project, a foundation that creates access for underserved youth paired with award winning outdoor education curriculums delivered by professional educators and professional athletes ranging from the NFL, Olympics, collegiate teams to snowboarding, skiing and climbing. By combining professional athlete mentors, outdoor education and the innate benefits of nature with underserved youth we can create experiences that may transform the lives of countless kids. These are the building blocks of The Nature Project.
This summer, The Nature Project, founded by Keen ambassador Charles Post, and NFL tight end Cooper Helfet, launched with support from our advisory board, including Seattle Seahawks legend Marshawn Lynch, Islandwood CEO Ben Klasky and Larry Estrada, VP of Private Wealth Managament at Goldman Sachs. During our first round of fundraising, The Nature Project raised $70,000 to kick-start our vision, which was realized when The Nature Project planted 200 4th and 5th graders in nature so that they could experience a 3 day and 3 night stay at Islandwood - an award winning outdoor education group - in the company of Seattle Seahawks players, Sidney Rice, DeShawn Shed, Jermaine Kerse, Olympic swimmer Emily Silver, mountain athlete and artist Rachel Pohl and members of the University of Washington basketball team. With our first event under our belts and two more scheduled with YMCAs Bold and Gold on the horizon, we are firmly rooted as an organization guided by our simple vision to create transformative experiences for underserved youth in nature.
By: Charles Post