GO-Day 2010

Hundreds of hosting organizations and partners – federal and local agencies, nonprofits, recreation businesses and more – made June 12 a day of outdoor fun for thousands of families – especially underserved and urban families with kids. National Get Outdoors Day (GO-Day) 2010 was the third annual GO-Day and united groups to combat indoor, inactive lifestyles which are fueling the nation’s obesity epidemic and threatening today’s children with shorter life expectancies than their parents. The national effort was again led by the USDA Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), but the 91 official GO-Day sites involved a varied mix of organizations in the natural resources, recreation, healthcare, youth services, and media fields. The partners were united by a shared belief in the mission of National Get Outdoors Day:

Unify public and private-sector interests in efforts to influence American lifestyles, especially among youth, in ways that maximize the physical, mental and other benefits derived from activities in the Great Outdoors through a focused effort to invite Americans to designated sites on a single day, as well as to highlight and assist the efforts of National Get Outdoors Day partners year-round.

The effort to reduce childhood obesity through outdoor activities has gained national attention this year. President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors) seeks to reconnect Americans to the outdoors. In addition, the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative (www.letsmove.gov), which aims to combat childhood obesity and help American families make good nutritional choices, added a “Let’s Move Outside” component on June 1, highlighting outdoor physical activity as essential to children’s health.

GO-Day 2010 provided instruction, equipment and opportunities for families to enjoy both traditional and new outdoor activities, regardless of previous experience. The priority targets for the day were young people, especially urban youth, and Americans who do not currently visit public lands and waters. Organizers of GO-Day understood that they were competing with the lure of shopping malls, cable television, computers and electronic games, and they met the challenge with exceptional results.

GO-Day involved 91 official sites in more than 35 states from Hoonah, Alaska, to Canyon Rim Park in Utah, from Washington D.C.’s Kingman Island to Colorado’s Denver City Park, and from Munford, Alabama, to Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Tens of thousands of people across the country enjoyed the fun and health benefits of time in the great outdoors. GO-Day sites offered traditional outdoor activities like fishing, canoeing and kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, orienteering and even archery. Some sites also included technology, recognizing the lure of digital photography and hand-held GPS units used for geocaching. Partners also offered educational sessions on water safety, conservation, recycling, wildlife safety, and outdoor ethics. Hands-on learning experiences included casting, setting up tents, planting and caring for gardens – even canning. Special guests at many of the sites – including Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and the Blue Goose – were hits with kids of all ages. And Shrek and friends appeared at Denver’s GO-Day event, where the USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council joined DreamWorks Animation to launch new PSAs – featuring Shrek – to help get children outside and reconnected with nature. Visit www.discovertheforest.org for more information.

A key focus of GO-Day 2010 was making outdoor recreation a part of healthy lifestyles. Many GO-Day sites offered participants educational sessions on good nutrition, blood pressure checks and information about reducing the risk of diabetes, skin cancer and more. In Denver, HHS Regional Health Administrator Dr. Zachary Taylor even wrote kids prescriptions for good health and encouraged them to complete healthy GO-Day activities and to make personal commitments to getting active outdoors this summer.

While the exciting activities of the GO-Day events gave guests a taste of fun outdoor activities, follow-up EChO events will help them stay engaged in outdoor activities long after they returned home. Participating organizations distributed invitations to EChO events later in the summer, where GO-Day guests will be provided with the equipment and training needed for a more in-depth outdoor experiences. EChO activities will include ranger-guided nature walks, rock climbing, river rafting, golf lessons, fishing and more at nearby local sites, as well as national EChO events such as the Great American Backyard Campout.

GO-Day is a signature event of Great Outdoors Month, which is designated each year in June by a Presidential proclamation. For the first time, all 50 state governors and the Mayor of the District of Columbia also issued Great Outdoors Month proclamations. Many proclamations specifically mention National Get Outdoors Day and promote efforts in their state to get kids and families healthier through fun outdoors. A growing number of governors also toured state parks, held conferences on health and the great outdoors and took other actions to highlight healthy outdoor fun. Great Outdoors Month 2010 proclamations can be viewed and downloaded at www.funoutdoors.com.

National Get Outdoors Day was launched on June 14, 2008 in response to the increasing number of disturbing reports about the daily activities and health of today’s youth. Today’s children spend 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen and are six times more likely to play a computer game than to ride a bike. Kids report that outdoor adventure is fun, but that outdoor activities are nearly invisible and forgotten, lost in a clutter of ads and text messages, television shows and Wii consoles, overshadowed by malls offering food, friends and “perfect” weather. Building on the success of More Kids in the Woods and other important efforts to connect Americans – and especially children – with nature and active lifestyles, the Forest Service and ARC agreed to lead an inclusive, nationwide effort focusing on a single day when people would be inspired and motivated to get outdoors. GO-Day brings federal, state and local agencies, key enthusiast organizations and recreation businesses together to create a healthy, fun day of outdoor adventure aimed at reaching first-time visitors to public lands and reconnecting children to the outdoors – and invites them to keep coming back.

The achievements of GO-Day 2010 are impressive:

  • At least 25,000+ American families and children were involved in GO-Day events across the nation
  • 91 official sites in 35 states and the District of Columbia celebrated GO-Day, a 50% increase over the number of sites in 2009
  • GO-Day events attracted generous support, time and donations from hundreds of partners, many new to the GO-Day effort. Giveaways donated by The Coleman Company, Clif Bar and others allowed GO-Day participants to enjoy the outdoors long after the events
  • GO-Day generated widespread media coverage, including numerous print and online articles, radio spots, television and news features, YouTube clips, and pages on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • A number of gubernatorial Great Outdoors Month proclamations included a reference to GO-Day and offered a showcase for local actions by governors and mayors
  • GO-Day sites attracted not only families and kids but VIPs – including top federal and state officials
  • GO-Day 2010 involved National Marina Day for the very first time, and the synergy worked well in many locations including Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Google reports more than 500 media “hits” about GO-Day events, including:

Typical of the media coverage is this excerpt from a story in the Albert Lea (MN) Tribune:

Along with other parks across the country, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging families to answer the call of the wild and participate in National Get Outdoors Day by offering a variety of free activities statewide on Saturday, June 12.

The DNR will also waive the requirement for a $5 vehicle permit and provide free admission at all 73 Minnesota State parks and recreation areas that day. The goal of National Get Outdoors Day is to introduce first-time visitors to state parks, state trails, fishing piers, and other public lands. In particular, it aims to reconnect youth — whose participation in outdoor recreation has been declining — to the great outdoors.

In addition to getting free admission to parks and programs, families can pick up copies of the Parks Guide and an 80-page spring/summer Programs & Special Events catalog when they arrive on June 12.

This is a great time to enjoy the State Park experience and find out what enjoying the outdoors is all about.

As in the first two years, top Forest Service officials took part in National Get Outdoors Day events across the nation. Hank Kashdan, Associate Chief, braved the cold and rainy weather that held down crowds in Denver. Chuck Myers, Deputy Chief for Business Operations, joined the Phoenix area events led by Salt River Tubing. Jackie Myers, Associate Deputy Chief, and Donna Carmical, Chief Financial Officer, assisted with the Albuquerque event. Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief for the National Forest System, took part in the Detroit event at Greenfield Village while Gloria Manning, Associate Deputy Chief, helped celebrate National Get Outdoors Day in Anchorage, joined by Wyland, ocean artist and USDA partner. Jim Bedwell, Director of Recreation, Volunteers and Heritage Resources, took part in the activities at Kingman Island in Washington, D.C.

GO-Day’s national profile has increased as awareness of the benefits of time outdoors builds. Major increases in the number of participating organizations and media coverage demonstrate the growing enthusiasm and support for the event. The GO-Day National Coordinating Committee is already working on ways to make GO-Day 2011 another major step forward, adopting important “lessons learned,” including:

  • Start planning each event at least six months in advance in order for each site to have a reasonable timetable for planning and advertising. This schedule will also allow time to optimize opportunities to invite diverse organizations and groups to participate.
  • Form a core planning committee or group for each site. Planning and delegation of responsibilities allow everyone to contribute their skills and resources.
  • Invite exhibitors to a planning meeting at the event site before GO-Day. Exhibitors are able to ask logistical questions prior to the event day, which helps the event set-up run more smoothly.
  • Distribute maps at the entrance to make the guests feel welcomed and to inform them about all of the activities at the event in a logical manner. Tie prizes and contests to the map.
  • Concentrate exhibitors in one area to heighten their visibility and maintain a high level of excitement and energy throughout the event at all of the activities.
  • Provide exhibits that emphasize the health and wellness aspects of outdoor recreation to create a stronger connection between outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles. Invite special participation by the healthcare community.
  • Invite exhibitors and participants from many different local cultures, as it is important to make the outdoors relevant to culturally diverse audiences. Materials in many different languages will make these guests feel welcomed.
  • Heighten the visibility of volunteers with bright shirts or badges so that guests can have their questions answered immediately.
  • Encourage exhibitors to offer hands-on activities, not just informational booths. GO-Day is meant to introduce participants to healthy, ACTIVE outdoor fun.
  • Offer guests healthy food to reinforce the link between the outdoors and health.
  • Consider live music or performances at the event to keep energy levels high.
  • Create a back-up plan in case of poor weather conditions.
  • Include event information in Public and Charter School newsletters and email.
  • Promote the event through school assemblies prior to the event – hand out coupons with event details that also serve as raffle entries.
  • Contact local editorial writers about a GO-Day article.
  • Arrange segments for local television stations about the GO-Day event – offer appearances by Smokey and other characters as well as a spokesman.
  • Place event reminders in online local free event calendars, such as tourism departments, Craigslist, news stations, and more.
  • Have the participating organizations distribute and post flyers on community bulletin boards.
  • Emphasize “next steps” with EChO events and easy-to-find websites featuring local outdoor fun opportunities and events.
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to build interest in future outdoor events.
  • Broadcast the GO-Day event on radio stations.
  • Invite local officials – and in fact ask them to help build attendance at GO-Day.
  • Highlight careers in the outdoors – especially entry level jobs through AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association.
  • Seek out participation by zoos, wildlife rescue organizations and more because kids love animals.
  • Look for serendipities: GO-Day 2010 in Washington, D.C., tied into a bluegrass festival, and plans are for the 2011 event to tie into a D.C. government event offering kids the chance to climb on fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and other apparatus. The combined events will attract more media interest.
  • Involve youth service organizations like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Campfire USA and church youth organizations.

Any additional feedback from guests and participants of GO-Day 2010 are welcomed by the GO-Day National Coordinating Committee. Arrangements are already being made throughout the nation for GO-Day 2011 in June. If you are interested in hosting a GO-Day event in 2011, please contact the American Recreation Coalition at arc@funoutdoors.com or 202-682-9530.

For more information on GO-Day, please visit: www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org.

GO-Day is part of the Get Outdoors USA! campaign. The campaign reaches out to Americans, especially our youth, and encourages healthy, active outdoors lifestyles. Additionaly, the campaign focuses on Americans embracing our parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and water. Get Outdoors USA! partnered with the U.S. Forest Service on six recreation forums in early 2007 which helped build awareness that public lands were not using the correct "triggers" to capture the attention of today's youth. The GO-Day concept was piloted at the Outdoor Recreation Village at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona, and welcomed over 100,000 vistors. For more information on the Outdoor Recreation Village, visit www.funoutdoors.com/node/view/2016. We truly appreciate all your hard work in making this the best GO-Day Event Nationwide!

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