Pioneering Program Introduces Urban Youth to Outdoor Experiences, Healthier Lifestyles

Washington, D.C. (November 8)–A health and lifestyle strategy to provide inner-city and other economically disadvantaged children with an introduction to America’s national parks, campgrounds and other outdoor recreation opportunities on public lands will be expanded in 2007 to include more participants and more varied experiences, according to a coalition of government agencies, corporations and others that sponsor Wonderful Outdoor World (WOW).

WOW national spokesperson Derrick Crandall said, “Urban environments, particularly for children of color, often are places with few opportunities to socialize and recreate safely. WOW works to change lives by offering young people fun and often life-altering outdoor adventures which they would otherwise be unlikely to enjoy.”

”We take youngsters whose lives are centered on the streets of a city and show them how to pitch a tent, catch a fish, paddle a canoe, and spend a night under the stars. The joy on their faces says it all,“ added Denise Meridith, co-founder of WOW. “WOW also introduces our youth to positive role models and to careers involving the outdoors and the environment.”

Promoting healthier living is central to WOW. “The statistics about the sedentary American lifestyle don’t paint a pretty picture,” Crandall said. “Too many of our children—and their parents—unfortunately think leisure time means going to the mall or watching TV instead of enjoying hiking, biking and other healthy activities. We show kids how to gear up and get out into all the wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities available on public lands – often just down the street. Getting outdoors is good for their hearts and their souls.”

Meridith cited Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) data that shows there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States over the past 20 years and a report from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) that, “…physical inactivity is a major, largely preventable threat to health.”

Begun in 1995 by a group of public agencies and private organizations concerned with declining participation in outdoor activities by America’s youth, and especially minority youth, WOW has touched the lives of some 20,000 youngsters. Its signature activity, overnight camp-outs, features active fun and environmental education, then links children to other local programs and organizations to sustain interest. WOW seeks to “hook” children for life, boosting involvement in other recreation programs, and even pursuit of outdoor-oriented careers. Some lucky WOW campers participate in the annual Tournament of Roses parade and events on the National Mall and at the White House.

WOW now operates in six cities (Los Angeles; Phoenix; Denver; Washington, DC; Albuquerque and Salt Lake City), with each program tailored to partnerships and resources of the local community. Its sponsors intend to bring the program to more areas and more youth in the future.

WOW operates under a 501(c) 3 non-profit charter. Support is provided by a large number of organizations including: Walt Disney Company; Coleman Company; Bureau of Land Management; USDA Forest Service; Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort; Wells Cargo; Forever Resorts; City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks; American Recreation Coalition; and dozens of local sponsors.

For more information about WOW and its new efforts, contact dcrandall@funoutdoors.com or click here.