Walking over the trails of East Bay Regional Park, a pair of young boys turn to me and ask, “can we walk up front and join our friends?” “Sure,” I say, “run up there.” “Run?” They ask. “Yes, run.” With smiles ear to ear they take off as fast as they can up the trail.
What started as apprehension about mud, rain and who lived in the holes, or what might jump from the trees quickly turns to curiosity. Who lives there? What is that ? Why is that doing that? How many shades of green do you see? Each participant is exploring nature close up with their own new hand lens. Place the lens on something small and obscure like a leaf of butterfly, and instantly, it’s large, in sight, right there for your eyes to see. Amidst giggles and screams, bugs, leaves, flowers and even their friends faces all come into focus.
After participating in hands-on activities exploring teamwork, perseverance and resilience together with some of their favorite professional athletes - this time including a few NFL players from the Oakland Raiders - the kids were clearly engaged. But in addition, it was powerful to see The Nature Project athlete mentors taking in the views, soaking in the lessons and benefits of time spent outside, right alongside the kids with just as much curiosity and unbridled energy. Throughout the day, I noticed, on many occasions, the athletes capturing their own photos to share their outdoor experiences at the park with their own children and families.
As the afternoon came to an end, I asked the kids, “do you know whose park this is?” Blank looks all around. I shared with them that it is your park and it belongs to all of you. You can even take the bus here. One kid shouts out “you mean I could bring my family here that would be sooo cool.”
It’s these moments that make what we do so important, and so rewarding.
- Jane Bierman Seibel - TNP Director of Operations
The Nature Project event on May 18, 2019 was co sponsored by East Bay Regional Parks and The Children and Nature Network. Over 60 kids were involved in partnership with Marshawn Lynch’s Fam1st Foundation and YES Nature to Neighborhoods. Thank you to our generous donors including REI for making this and future TNP events possible. We could not do this work without the involvement of our awesome volunteer professional athletes ambassadors. Thank you to Cooper Helfet, Oakland Raider Marcell Ateman and Oakland Raider Josh Johnson.