2018 SHIFT for the Planet People’s Choice Award

OrganizationSoul River Inc.
InitiativeSoul River Runs Deep
LocationPortland, OR
LeadershipChad Brown, Founder/President
Faith Briggs, Tactical Operation Producer
ContactChad Brown, chad@soulriverrunsdeep.com 

Initiative Overview

Founded by U.S. Navy veteran Chad Brown, Soul River creates mission-driven environmental educational experiences, deployments, that combine veterans and inner-city youth connecting to the outdoors. Veterans serve as mentors, teaching the youth life skills, conservation education, leadership development in threatened wild spaces. Engaging U.S veterans as mentors for youth, rich, powerful opportunities for healing authentically two demographics as new emerging environmental leaders.


Soul River’s conservation goal is to engage disadvantaged youth and US veterans as champions for some of the most environmentally threatened habitats in the world. We do this through mobilizing educational deployments into these landscapes, combined with mission driven build projects, social media, documentary films, art, and direct meetings with public officials.

Since SRI’s uses fly fishing as a vehicle to help support social change and environmental justice. We are frequently confronted by racism and difficult racial dynamics, which we must navigate. Soul River serves men, boys, women, girls, and members of the LGBTQ community, we also work with issues of gender equality and sexual orientation. Constant learning and growth in this area is part of our everyday work as an organization strives to grow our next environmental leaders. Our Initiative dismantles health by connecting disadvantage youth and veterans to our public lands, wild rivers and beyond builds genuine community, regenerate mental health and physical health ands ultimately establish and inspire a new generation of outdoor leaders to advocate for conservation spaces.

SRI Participants are in college, internships from the impact of serving in deployment. Success is largely measured anecdotally. Deployments gives deep insight into the impacts of the environment, economic, social and culture that our participants couldn’t get any other way. They see first hand, as our youth returning from deployments want to take action.

Impact by the numbers

  • Serves US Veterans and disadvantaged youth
  • Youth are drawn mostly from Portland
  • Demographics from our Celebration of Wild Steelhead event are characteristic of the youth we serve:
    • 56% African American
    • 17% Latino
    • 19% Native American
    • 3% White
    • 5% other


We merge a vastly underutilized generation of leaders: our US Veterans. Veterans are an ideal source of inspiration and mentoring for underserved youth. Veterans and youth benefits from each other in nature, forming bonds on mission driven projects. Veterans and youth finds a purpose together thru channeling their natural leadership.


The program is scalable and can be created into chapters across the region with the right infrastructure put in place.

Biggest Challenge to Advancing This Work

We see the impact in that youth returning from our deployments want to take action. (Unfortunately, SRI does not have the capacity at this time to support their efforts). These efforts are centered around supportive bridges that leads to internships, advocacy development with our partners.

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