2018 SHIFT Awards Official Selections Announced

The SHIFT Awards, which will be announced at The 2018 SHIFT Festival in Jackson, WY, recognize individuals, initiatives, or organizations that make innovative, impactful and replicable contributions to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation.

To determine 2018 SHIFT Award Official Selections, SHIFT researchers first identified more than 300 individuals or initiatives from around North America that leveraged outdoor rec for conservation gains.

They then used this criteria to make further evaluations of more than 160 initiatives in six categories: Non-Profit Leadership, Business Leadership, Public Land-Management Innovation, Technology, Youth Engagement and Adventure Athlete.

Because The 2018 SHIFT Festival focuses on the connection between public health and public lands, an additional “Outside Rx” criterion—”Does the initiative help advance and promote the health benefits of time outside?”—was then applied to the evaluations, and weighted double to help insure the nominees aligned with the overall theme.

Representatives of the top 25% of the nominees are invited to participate in this year’s SHIFT as Official Selections. They receive complementary Festival passes and are recognized during the Festival for their work—part of SHIFT’s commitment to showcasing on-the-ground work that is successfully meeting challenges at the nexus of outdoor recreation and conservation in communities around the country.

The top 10% of the initiatives in each category (or the three highest-ranking initiatives, whichever is higher) will comprise the finalists for the 2018 SHIFT Awards.

Ties in the evaluations were included in the Official Selections.

This year’s applicant pool is the largest to date.

SHIFT organizers are interviewing Official Selection representatives to determine how best to integrate them into the Festival agenda.

Non-Profit Leadership

Boarding for Breast Cancer, Chasing Sunshine Wellness Retreats

Location: Gardena, CA

Description: Boarding for Breast Cancer (B4BC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation that advocates early detection and a healthy, active, and sustainable lifestyle as the best means for breast cancer prevention. Founded in 1996, B4BC empowers young people to make positive choices that promote lifelong wellness through outreach, prevention, sustainability, and support programs.

B4BC’s Chasing Sunshine Wellness Retreats are outdoor wellness retreats tailored specifically towards young breast cancer patients and survivors, supporting them on their path to wellness, and besides their travel, are provided at no cost. These retreats are rooted in the mountains and oceans and connect young women with other women facing similar challenges. Retreat activities include snowboarding, skiing, surfing and SUP. They provide nutritional and sexual counseling, share meditation and breath work techniques, offer yoga instruction, as well as overall life counseling and story sharing. B4BC aims to empower these women with tools to assist them in moving past the trauma, and finding their way to a place that doesn’t feel so lonely and fearful.

California Outdoor Engagement Coalition

Location: Berkeley, CA

Description: The mission of the California Outdoor Engagement Coalition is to expand equitable access to the outdoors for all Californians through cross-sector partnerships and collective impact.  The Coalition’s three priorities are to advocate for equitable access to the outdoors; promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the outdoors; and achieve collective impact.

Statewide, the Coalition currently has over 190 organizational and individual members, representing a variety of sectors, including public lands and waters (national, state, regional, county and city), health care, transportation, education (k-12 and higher ed), cities, social and environmental justice organizations and non-profits.  They leverage the work of their members on a statewide basis through four convenings a year (2 virtual and 2 in-person) and through their statewide advocacy and policy efforts.

The Coalition serves as the convener of the Richmond Outdoors Coalition, a collective impact initiative to expand equitable access to the outdoors in Richmond, CA. Members of the Richmond Outdoors Coalition include the City of Richmond, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Contra Costa Community Health Services (who provide Park Rx to their patients), AC Transit, East Bay Regional Park District, and many local community groups.

The Coalition is housed at Berkeley’s Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity, which partners with faculty at UC Berkeley and other campuses who research on the benefits of outdoor access. This includes, but isn’t limited to, Dr Dacher Keltner’s research at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center on the “Science of Awe,” Dr Nooshin Razani at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Center for Nature and Health, and Dr Daphne Miller at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Casting for Recovery

Location: Bozeman, MT

Description: The mission of Casting for Recovery (CfR) is to provide empowerment and healing to women with breast cancer through authentic outdoor experiences. CfR believes that the natural world is a healing force. By introducing a new skill – catch and release fly fishing –  CfR invites women facing breast cancer to experience the outdoors in a meaningful way, bringing inspiration and balance to their lives. CfR serves women of all ages, in all stages of treatment and recovery, at no cost to participants.

Casting for Recovery measures the impact of their programs through detailed post-retreat evaluations. Measurable participant outcomes include:

  1. Positive feelings towards continuing outdoor experiences;
  2. Improved quality of life;
  3. Gaining new resources to improve well-being.

2017 participant evaluations demonstrated:

  • 99%  of women felt connected with other participants
  • 98% felt inspired to include more outdoor activities at home
  • 94% felt better able to cope with their situation
  • 93% learned something new about living with breast cancer

Conservation Legacy, Veterans Fire Corps

Location: Tucson, AZ

Description: The Veterans Fire Corps (VFC) is a collaborative initiative of Conservation Legacy, run in partnership with state and federal agencies including the USDA Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and AmeriCorps. The VFC aims to engage recent era Veterans on priority hazardous fuels projects while developing the next generation of wildland firefighters. Currently, several Conservation Legacy programs run VFC programming, including Southwest Conservation Corps, Arizona Conservation Corps, Southeast Conservation Corps and Conservation Corps New Mexico.

2017 Statistics:

  • 45 Total Current Era Veterans Served
  • 40 Alumni placed in or seeking relevant post-service employment
  • 152 Miles treated or improved, including firebreak created
  • 7,155 Acres improved, including Rx burns
  • 61,210 Project work hours completed

First Descents

Location: Denver, CO

First Descents participants pod together.

Description:  First Descents (FD) provides life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults (ages 18-39) impacted by cancer.

First Descents addresses what the National Cancer Institute identifies as a major determinant of long term survivor health: ongoing psychosocial supportive care. As a recognized leader in adventure-based healing, FD maximizes outdoor adventure, healthy skills development, self-efficacy and social connection to improve the long-term survivorship of young adults impacted by cancer.  What started in 2001 as a single week-long kayaking program for 15 participants has grown to include more than 120 unique programs providing more than 1,200 unique experiences annually.

Knowing that community building and frequent, regional programming are essential to continued healing, FD operates single-day and multi-day programs in established local adventure communities. Now in 16 major US cities, FD’s local adventure communities provide support to over 3,000 program alumni. Regional program expansion introduces collaborative medical center partnerships, increases alumni resources, decreases travel costs, and empowers young adults to maintain healthy, active lifestyles. This model extends more outdoor experiences and social connection to the most underserved and fastest growing cancer age demographic.

Force Blue

Location: Montauk, NY

Description: FORCE BLUE’s mission is to unite the community of Special Operations combat veterans with the world of marine science and marine resource preservation for the betterment of both.

FORCE BLUE recruits the most highly skilled, highly trained individuals within the veteran Spec Ops community — individuals in whom governments have invested millions of dollars to create the best possible underwater operators — then retools and retrains them under the tutelage of the best marine scientists and conservationists to redeploy on conservation missions across the globe.

FORCE BLUE is actively involved with NOAA and its Marine Sanctuaries Program.  Plans are in place for our team(s) to take part in underwater preservation and restoration missions inside many of the existing 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and to assist in the survey and mapping of a potential 14th in 2019.

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

Location: San Francisco, CA

Description: The Institute at the Golden Gate reimagines parks as catalysts for social good, making them more vibrant, relevant, and valuable for all. We envision a simple but revolutionary future for parks where their role goes beyond conservation and recreation to help address complex human challenges. As a cornerstone of social innovation, parks become more valuable today and for future generations.

One area where parks have the power to create long-term, systemic change for society is in health and well-being. The proven physical and mental health benefits of time outdoors demonstrate the powerful role that parks can play as a low-cost resource to counter a growing number of chronic health concerns.

The Institute at the Golden Gate has been exploring this concept and bringing together cross-sector partners since 2009. Early on, the Institute identified Park Prescriptions as a specific innovation with huge potential to build a new community of park users. While Park Prescription programs can be as diverse as the communities for which they are designed, the Institute promotes those that are built on robust partnerships between public land agencies, health care providers, and community partners. They include a referral or “push” from a healthcare or social service provider and a “pull” from a park system that connects individuals with relevant, local outdoor activities.

Furthermore, the Institute has focused on programs that are specifically designed to get low-income communities, communities of color, individuals undergoing mental and emotional stress, and other vulnerable groups out into nature for their health and well-being. Research has shown that these populations that are underrepresented among park users are the very groups that have the most to gain from spending time in nature. By working with healthcare and social service providers, park agencies are able to engage the communities and individuals that need it most.

Greater Good Science Center 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Description: The Greater Good Science Center studies and shares actionable research on well-being, happiness, purpose, and social connection.

While the GGSC is not explicitly a conservation organization, it provides the scientific underpinning for relevant findings other advocacy groups can use.

For example:

– What happens when we reconnect with nature
– How nature can make you kinder, happier, and more creative
– How to protect kids from nature-deficit disorder
– How modern life became disconnected from nature
– Noticing Nature (practice)
– Why you need more nature in your life
– How nature helps fathers nurture
– Being around nature helps you love your body
– Does nature make you more mindful?
– How to raise an environmentalist
– The benefits of feeling awe in nature

All these articles, practices, and research findings are featured on their website with 5M+ annual visitors, 400k+ newsletter subscribers, and 100k+ social media followers.

Dr. Hanaa Hamdi, Trust for Public Land

Location: New York, NY

Description: Hanaa has been at the forefront of carefully addressing how we assess health outcomes through our projects. She brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge within the field of public health to her thought leadership, and is leading The Trust for Public Land staff in a group of pilot cities across the country to refine our expertise in this arena.

The Trust for Public Land believes everyone in America deserves a quality park or open space within a 10 minute walk of home. Across our country, more than 100 million people don’t. These easily accessible nature experiences have layered benefits, including significant health improvements found when spending time with family and friends outdoors. They also conserve working farms, ranches, and forests; lands of historical and cultural importance; rivers, streams, coasts, and watersheds; and other special places where people can experience nature close at hand.

Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, Ocean Therapy Program

Location: Manhattan Beach, CA

A participant receives mentorship at the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation

Description: The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation is dedicated to honoring the life of our inspiration, Jimmy Miller, by supporting the healing of mental and physical illness through surfing and ocean related activities.  Through our unique adaptive Ocean Therapy Program, the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation enables surfers, educators, therapists, lifeguards and friends to help people affected by mental and physical illness experience the joy and healing power of the ocean and surfing.

The aim of their Ocean Therapy Program is to enhance each participant’s self-efficacy, provide him or her with a sense of achievement and accomplishment and instill a hope for a brighter future. Additionally, surfing is a physical activity that builds strength, balance and skill. They also endeavor to help make participants proficient in their ocean safety awareness and need for conservation, as well as inspire board sport skill acquisition for continued independent participation as a healthy form of exercise. As a further benefit, Ocean Therapy also provides a common activity for military families to participate in together and serves as a catalyst to break down the walls that often isolate participants from their family as a result of their past traumatic experiences. Ocean Therapy stresses that by successfully engaging in the activity of surfing and riding waves, participants will increase their self-confidence and belief in their ability to achieve goals in other areas of life.

Oregon Health and Outdoors Initiative

Location: Portland, OR

Description: The Health and Outdoors Initiative is:

A) Increasing physical and perceived access to the outdoors

B) Growing green space closer to people

C) Supporting culturally-relevant programming to build bridges to the outdoors.

They are leveraging outdoor recreation, healthcare, and the broader business community for conservation gains. All three groups endorsed a Washington County, OR measure to create $5 million/year in new conservation funding.

They are unapologetic about who they are focused on–Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans, people with disabilities, and anyone in rural Oregon. And leadership from those communities is essential. All of their strategy on policy, research, finance/fundraising, and programming is molded in support of those communities. The partnerships they have built where healthcare, business, environment, public health, and community all show up in the same room saying the same words has tremendous power.

Parks Rx: Your Prescription to Better Health

Location: Birmingham, AL

People pose after an event to unveil the Parks RX program at Avondale Park in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (Photo/ Mark Almond)

Description: Parks Rx: Your Prescription to Better Health is a nature-based, healthy living prescription that providers use to connect patients to more than 100 parks for physical activity in the City of Birmingham, Alabama. Parks Rx has an interactive map that allows users to search for local parks and greenspaces by zip code. The map populates with pinpoints for area parks and includes links to park details, such as amenities, safety, trail lengths, hours of operation, and much more. Since the launch of Parks Rx in September 2016, more than 12,000 prescriptions have been issued to patients. Parks Rx is a collaborative between the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (lead agency), Jefferson County Department of Health, Freshwater Land Trust, Birmingham Park and Recreation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reel Recovery

Location: Needham, MA

Description: Reel Recovery is a national non-profit organization that conducts free fly-fishing Retreats for men living with cancer.  Our mission is to help men in the cancer recovery process by introducing them to the healing powers of the sport of fly-fishing, while providing a safe, supportive environment to explore their personal experiences with cancer, with others who share their stories.  

Reel Recovery has designed a unique and innovative Retreat program that combines expert fly-fishing instruction with directed psychosocial support, conducted over a three-day period at premier fly-fishing facilities.  Though only a few days in duration, a Reel Recovery Retreat can be a life-changing event for these men battling cancer. The program blends outdoor activity with directed conversations to create a supportive environment conducive to relaxed, open participation.  


Over the past 14 years, they have conducted 267 Retreats in 20 States, all with the exact same Program and Agenda, all completely free to the 3,000+ participants who have attended. They have over 700 active, dedicated volunteers who raise local funds, recruit volunteers and participants, and who implement the Retreats at the local level.

Soul River Runs Deep

Location: Portland, OR

Youth participants and military veteran mentors pose together at the conclusion of a Soul River Runs Wild excursion.

Description: Soul River Runs Deep uplifts and strengthens communities by connecting inner city youth and veterans to the outdoors. harnessing incredible opportunities and powerful experiences that forges strong connections between youth and veterans, their communities, and the natural world. Spending time embraced in currents of river water, trekking majestic forested trails, and witnessing a bald eagle or elk in its habitat is healing. Connecting with nature is a powerful outlet to reduce stress, find focus, sharpen self-awareness, embrace spirituality, and develop positive values beneficial to both the individual and community. Soul River unites youth and veterans on challenging yet rewarding adventures at zero cost where they become part of something bigger than themselves, developing into strong leaders in the outdoors and their communities.

Walk With A Doc

Location: Westerville, OH

Description: Walk with a Doc is working to solve the epidemic of sedentary lifestyles. National statistics show that 97% of adults get little or no regular physical activity, despite the fact that 150 minutes of physical activity a week can help prevent/treat more than 40 major diseases including: cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and mental illness. Experts predict that by 2035, 95% of adults in the United States will be overweight or obese creating a significant drain on the financial resources of our healthcare system, as well as increasing the tragic impact of preventable disease.

The statistics above show the scope of this problem is immense. Most people view exercise as a daunting challenge that must be difficult and time-consuming, rather than a routine and a natural part of our daily lives. One simple action, walking, can help prevent many of the problems we face. Walking has countless ripple effects stemming from increased energy levels, creativity, increased self-esteem, etc.  WWAD provides a low-barrier approach focused on education, exercise, and empowerment of participants.

WWAD is a free participation, year-round walking program that operates in communities across America and abroad. It is hosted by local physicians, in public spaces, and everyone is welcome.  The mission is to encourage healthy physical activity in people of all ages, and reverse the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, which will improve the health and well-being of the country.

Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation

Location: Apollo Beach, FL

Description: The Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation Inc. (WWIA) serves our nation’s combat-wounded Purple Heart recipients by providing world-class outdoor sporting activities as a means to recognize and honor their sacrifice, encourage independence and connections with communities, and promote healing and wellness through camaraderie and a shared passion for the outdoors.

The WWIA has created 60 outdoor sporting activities, hunting and fishing excursions, in 36 different states all aimed at helping heal the wounds doctors can not fix.  The most significant contributions they’ve made in 11 years of conducting operations, involve having saved lives as a result of their work. In addition, the Foundation has created a tremendous support network for these Heroes. They connect combat wounded veterans to each other, connect and surround them with high-quality sportsmen and women who care about their well-being, and they connect them with nature.  By doing so, they instill a sense of belonging, self-worth, self-reliance and feelings of wellness.

Business Leadership

Archery Trade Association

Location: New Ulm, MN

Description: The Archery Trade Association is the organization for manufacturers, retailers, distributors, sales representatives and others working in the archery and bowhunting industry. The Archery Trade Association works to make archery and bowhunting accessible to everyone, in every community. They partner with state agencies and nongovernment organizations to provide programs, instruction and facilities in communities. They reach beyond the industry to promote archery sports, reach new archers and bowhunters, and ensure outdoor-recreation for generations to come.

52 Hike Challenge

Location: Aliso Viejo, CA

Description: The 52 Hike Challenge is a global movement empowering people to take a personal journey to discover the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits gained through hiking once a week for an entire year. Thousands of people all around the world are taking the challenge to help change their lives in a positive way, one step at a time.

From their nomination: “The most significant contribution the challenge has had on its participants is giving them a new lease on life. People come out transformed after they’ve completed the challenge, they find gratitude, get physically fit, they become empowered and apply the concept of 52 hikes to other aspects of their lives. “Appreciation for life,” is one of the common testimonials we’ve heard. Besides helping people who are going through difficult time, the challenge has allowed for quality time among family and friends who participate in the challenge together. People have used the challenge to bring awareness to important causes in their lives. We think that ultimately our challenge helps people to become happier and healthier in their lives. We feel we are changing people’s lives, and thus creating a better world, one hike at a time.”

Idaho Business for the Outdoors

Location: Boise, ID

Description: Idaho Business for the Outdoors’ (IBO) mission is to provide a collective, non-partisan business voice in support of the investments, jobs, innovations, revenues and wellness benefits sustained through the preservation of Idaho’s outdoors.

IBO unites businesses across a range of industries from mining, ranching, healthcare, to tech. They are an inclusive organization building the value of our outdoors as a state asset.  IBO knows that our outdoors are a valuable recruitment and retention tool and believe that value needs to be promoted. Their board features a CEO from a mining company, a rancher, a state legislator, as well as a developer.  Their inclusive mission allows them to attract a broad range of businesses to help drive research and advocacy that will build a broader base of support for research, advocacy and pro-public land policy within the state of Idaho.


Location: Seattle, WA

REI’s flagship store in Seattle, WA.













Description: Stacy Bare, their nominator, writes, “No other organization I am aware of has funded as much in this space as REI.” Among other things, REI has supported the research of the Great Outdoors Lab, a collaboration between the Sierra Club and the Greater Good Science Center, with $325,000 over three years. They have also funded research in the outdoors via University of Washington and the Center for Nature and Health, which is now being published. 

Youth Engagement

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Kids in Parks

Location: Asheville, NC

Description: The mission of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program is to work together with partners throughout the country to promote children’s health and the health of our parks by increasing physical activity and engaging families in outdoor adventures that foster meaningful connections to the natural world.

The Kids in Parks program was developed as a cost-effective intervention to address these issues. Kids in Parks was formed 10 years ago through a partnership between the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway (National Park Service), and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. Kids in Parks encourages and supports active family engagement; increases trail use; introduces recreational opportunities available in parks, forests and communities; and creates a network that offers a variety of experiences.

Kids in Parks partners with land management agencies across the country to convert existing trails into “TRACK Trails” (TRACK: Trails, Recreation Adventures, and Connections for Kids). Self-guided, educational materials—such as custom trailhead signs and brochures with activities focused on trees, birds, flowers, and many more environmental topics—turn ordinary hikes into fun-filled, discovery-packed adventures. Most of the trails have four different brochures so participants can learn about the natural, cultural, and historical resources found along the trail.

In fact, registration data in conjunction with extrapolations based on on-site observation studies, suggests that 400,000 kids have hiked 410,000 miles, spending nearly 200,000 hours outdoors, while burning 60 million calories on TRACK Trails since the program’s inception. And, that’s just the kids! Since the average group size visiting TRACK Trails is 3.43 people, those numbers can be multiplied to obtain the total health-based outcomes associated with the program.

In order to market the availability of TRACK Trails, KIP has also developed a Park Prescription program called TRACK Rx, allowing doctors to formally prescribe TRACK Trails to their patients and, through our registration system, KIP is able to track fulfillment and provide feedback to providers.

Free Forest School

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Description: Free Forest School (FFS) ignites children’s innate capacity to learn through unstructured play in nature, fostering healthy development and nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers, collaborative leaders and environmental stewards.

A central component of FFS is adult education — bringing awareness of the value of nature play for healthy development to the adults who shape young children’s lives. Their core offerings focus on reaching parents and caregivers of children birth to 6, and their new Elementary Phenology Project addresses educators and administrators to communicate the value of nature play for whole child development for elementary school students. Specifically, they emphasize physical health benefits (physical fitness, motor development, research showing nature play can reduce obesity rates, etc.), mental health benefits (reduced stress, social/emotional development, increased focus and reduction of ADHD, particular benefits for children with ASD, etc.), and the cognitive benefits that support academic success (critical thinking, creativity, executive function, etc.). The adults who are engaged in their programming witness health improvements in their children, and report a reduction of stress and improvement in well-being in themselves as a result of engagement with FFS.

Youth Empowerment Services for Diné Bikeyah (Navajo YES)

Location: Teec Nos Pos, NM

Navajo YES Tour de Rez riders in June, north of Buffalo Pass

Description: Navajo YES promotes community wellness, lifelong fitness and youth empowerment across Diné Bikeyah (Navajoland).

The most significant contribution by Navajo YES is not only creating challenging sporting events and backcountry outings for individuals, but also that of creating an infrastructure of wellness that provides experience and opportunity throughout the year for both young and old to participate and contribute to positive activities which in turn promote and empower community wellness as a whole.

Navajo YES promotes wellness through both bicycle and running racing events. Many events put on by YES have a 20+ year standing. New in recent years is the establishment of the Navajo Nation Parks Race Series that utilizes, maintains, improves, and celebrates each of the five Navajo Nation Parks. Navajo YES has spearheaded the establishment of the Navajo Nation Trails Task Force, organizing and supporting trail infrastructure across the Reservation.

North Cascades Institute, Youth Leadership Adventures

Location: Sedro-Woolley, WA

Description: The overarching goal of the Youth Leadership Adventures program is to inspire a lifelong conservation ethic in the next generation of leaders.

Youth Leadership Adventures (YLA) is an innovative program that addresses interconnected, urgent and complex challenges:
– Decreased connection to the environment and natural world and negative impacts on health, wellness, and academic success.
– Lack of equity in access to outdoor educational enrichment opportunities.
– Inequitable access to science and sustainability education.
– Environmental education is not addressed comprehensively in schools.

The Institute transports YLA participants from their hometowns across Washington to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Cautious eyes light up as they venture up the Skagit River, deep into the mountains. Surrounded by 7 million acres of public lands, the Learning Center is a hub of discovery into one of the wildest, most biologically diverse landscapes in North America. At the Learning Center, students are equipped with all gear needed for their 8- and 12-day backcountry courses (backpacks, tents, boots, etc.).

As part the Pathway for Youth Initiative, YLA alumni may participate in free next-step opportunities to put skills and interests into action, including:
– Northwest Youth Leadership Summit: Environmental workforce development conference with skill-building sessions, career fair, and student-led discussion.
– Youth Ambassadors: 6-month program with resume building community service, college access workshops, and professional development.
– Paid Internships: Designed for YLA alumni of color, interns assist in leading backcountry courses and mentoring peers.

One Common Unity, Fly By Light: Discover Your True Nature

Location: Washington, DC

Description: One Common Unity (OCU) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that breaks cycles of violence and builds compassionate, healthy communities through the transformative power of art and music, peace education, and nature immersion. Their distinctive, holistic approach to youth engagement provides a strong foundation for low-income youth in Washington, D.C. to succeed academically and professionally, reach their personal goals, and live healthy, productive lives.

OCU emphasizes the importance of youth voices in changing communities for the better and prepares youth to take leadership roles in doing so. Founded in 2000, following a string of school shootings in Washington, D.C, OCU empowers youth to advocate for environmental and social justice and to lead a community-wide shift away from violence and poverty. In their rich seventeen-year history, they have engaged over 20,805 youth, families, teachers, and community members in our dynamic programming. They have trained over 9,200 teachers in the best practices of social-emotional development in the classroom. They have produced 52 concerts, festivals, and community art showcases, and they have worked in 26 schools in the DC region.

The Fly By Light: Discover Your True Nature program forwards the following goals: 1) increasing public land use and awareness 2) promoting environmental stewardship through public engagement. FBL focuses specifically on the needs of disadvantaged youth who face issues with conduct disorder, chronic depression, substance abuse, previous incarceration, foster care, domestic violence, or discrimination. They serve the most vulnerable youth because they have the least access to the services they so desperately need to support their health and well-being and achieve their long-term academic and professional goals.

Outdoor Outreach

Location: San Diego, CA

Description: Outdoor Outreach serves San Diego communities challenged by low educational attainment, concentrated poverty, rising crime, and high youth unemployment. Stressful environments like these are strong predictors of psychosocial outcomes and health risk behaviors in adolescence. Furthermore, nearly all the communities they serve are characterized as being “park-poor,”[1] where youth face multiple barriers to accessing the outdoors: In a 2017 survey, 75% of Outdoor Outreach participants responded they lack transportation; 44% responded their families do not support spending time outside; 44% were not aware of open space areas near their homes; and 13% responded that gangs or crime make close-to-home open spaces unsafe.  

Outdoor Outreach uses collaborative partnerships with schools, agencies, and other nonprofits to re-envision how we create social and physical environments that promote good health for all youth. They work with teachers and administrators to engage students ages 9 – 18 at 18 Title I schools, where upwards of 75% of students may qualify for free or reduced lunch assistance. They also work with 20+ other agencies like health centers, social services and YMCAs, and through those partnerships, engage students from many additional schools across San Diego.

Outdoor Outreach provides 400+ outdoor programs serving 1,700 individual youth each year. With every opportunity to rock climb, mountain bike, or snowboard, they give those young people two things that greatly increase their chances of success: First, they provide opportunities for them to explore their world, challenge themselves, and discover what they’re capable of. And second, they give them the chance to connect with supportive peers and mentors who believe in their potential. By investing in getting 1,700 youth into the outdoors each year, they’re creating 1,700 solutions to help those youth be resilient in the face of challenges, and confident in their power to make a difference.

Wings of America

Location: Santa Fe, NM

Description: For 30 years, Wings has created opportunities for the next generation of Native role models and leaders by creating opportunities for devoted young runners. These young people have gone on to become coaches, teachers and health care providers for newer generations and walking proof that it is possible to defy the stereotypes and statistics.

Technically, they more often connect our participants to lands that are held in trust by the federal government for the Tribes rather than “public lands”. But yes, through running they connect participants of all ages to the land. Wings summer Running & Fitness Camp facilitators perhaps create the strongest connections to “public lands” of any of our constituents. Equipped with job assignments, vehicles and a group of able bodied peers, these young leaders criss cross “the rez” each summer delivering fitness programming to youth ages 6-18. Apart from visiting the incredible landscapes that many camps are hosted nearby, facilitators are encourage to visit monuments and parks nearby their workplaces. These experiences create unforgettable summers that morph their young runners into conservationists with in-depth knowledge of their ancestral homelands.

Public Land Management Innovation

Attila Bality, National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Description: The RTCA program addresses the challenges of collaboration and partnership in conservation and outdoor recreation. More specifically, Attila Bality’s work has helped the NPS, the RTCA program, its partners, and the field of outdoor recreation to address the challenges of incorporating health professionals and health considerations into outdoor recreation planning to improve quality of life in communities across the U.S.

Through his work managing RTCA projects in New Mexico and providing support to project partners and national partners alike, Attila is a proven leader in the NPS and his field. He has provided many contributions toward incorporating health considerations in outdoor recreation, particularly through his help in developing the first-of-its-kind park prescription program for NPS partners in the mid 2000’s. Attila is also seen as an on-the-ground field leader for his colleagues and staff, and has co-authored the “Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook” and “Improving Public Health Through Parks and Trails: Eight Common Measures”, both with the Centers for Disease Control.

Barton Health and USFS, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Location: South Lake Tahoe, CA

Description: The collaborative effort between Barton Health and USFS promotes the delivery of therapeutic, nature-based experiences on National Forest System lands that benefit the medical patient community of Lake Tahoe, California.

Physicians, registered nurses, and physical therapists from Barton Health are currently working directly with Forest Service rangers to lead and facilitate wellness outings on public lands for individuals with chronic illness, in recovery from major surgery, and at-risk youth. By uniting the largest nonprofit health provider in the Lake Tahoe Basin with the primary land manager, the two partners have forged a natural alliance at the interface of public lands and community health.

East Bay Regional Parks

Location: Oakland, CA

Description: The East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) has been a leader in the Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP)* movement in the U.S. since 2011, and in the Park Prescriptions (Park Rx) movement since 2014. They know that being outdoors, especially in natural settings, reduces stress and improves our physical and emotional health. They also know that parks can play a vital role in preventative health care. Growing scientific evidence underscores that being active outdoors reduces the risks and rates of chronic illness such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes, especially among vulnerable communities.

Their goal has been to integrate individual and community health into the environs of public parks and to increase access for all to the experience and benefits of parks and recreation. To accomplish this goal, they’ve collaborated with over 15 health centers/clinics and 80 multicultural community leaders to educate, motivate, prescribe nature and accompany their patients/members to walk in the great outdoors. They have partnered with pediatric clinics; diabetic programs; mental health groups (National Alliance on Mental Illness); Women, Infant and Children (WIC) programs; pediatric obesity programs, faith-based organizations, senior centers, and many others – to bring their members out to walk in our parklands. Since 2012, they’ve partnered with 15 school districts in our Kids Healthy Outdoors Challenge program. Annually, teachers from 50 public schools bring over 4,000 third grade students to our parks for Nature study which supports Common Core curriculum standards as well as the California Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. Since 2013, they have led six popular Multicultural Wellness Walks annually, which have served 3,000+ ethnically-diverse peoples in the Bay Area.


Healthy Parks Healthy Person Tennessee

Location: Chapel Hill, TN

Description: Healthy Parks Healthy Person works To get more people in Tennessee outside and moving to improve or sustain their physical and mental health through a mobile app with incentives, park prescriptions, and a state-wide partnership network.

Healthy Parks Healthy Person TN is a multi-faceted program that provides incentives through a phone app, healthcare provider referrals through park prescriptions, and state-wide partnerships to get more people out into nature.  All of these things work together to create a significant contribution towards addressing the challenge of getting more people outdoors.

In order to earn points via the app, or fulfill a park prescription, the participants have to visit and be active in any National, State, County, or City park in Tennessee.  To earn a reward participants have to visit and be active in these places many times. Our goal is to not restrict a persons visitation to one certain type of park, but to allow people to visit as many types of public lands as possible to make it as easy as possible for the participant to enjoy the benefits of Healthy Parks Healthy Person TN.

Park Rx America

Location: Washington, DC

Description: Park Rx America (formally DC Park Rx) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship, by virtue of prescribing Nature during the routine delivery of healthcare.

The Park Rx America model facilitates entering and tracking information about the park prescription within the patient electronic medical record (EMR). Outside the EMR information is collected on the numbers of prescriptions written by each doctor, the number and percent of those prescriptions “filled” by their patients, and the park locations visited. Patients are identified by codes to protect privacy and medical information. The doctor is notified by text message what the patent completes the prescription. This model tracks the effectiveness of prescribing to get people outdoors; however, it does not track health outcomes. We determine health outcomes via testimonials from doctors and patients and thorough controlled studies conducted by independent researchers.

Your Forests, Your Future

Location: Salmon, ID

Courtesy of Your Forests, Your Future

Description: Your Forests Your Future is a national campaign run by a unique partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the nonprofit organization Salmon Valley Stewardship, and the media company More Than Just Parks to get people involved in shaping the future of their public lands. Your Forests Your Future invites people to celebrate, explore, and steward all 193 million acres of their National Forests, and beyond.

Your Forests, Your Future connects people with their public lands and empower them to get involved in the future of how these landscapes are managed. We breakdown barriers to engagement by demystifying wonky terms and beaurocratic processes in ways that people can understand and actually inspires participation. Your Forests Your Future not only increases the relevancy of public lands but also encourages a more inclusive and diverse audience to be a part of these conversations.

They utilize a diverse array of communication tools to address this challenge. These include films, virtual reality, animated infographics, and the popular Out.LAND.ish podcast. These tools reconnect people with their public lands and empower people to get involved in how they are managed.

Adventure Athlete

Jenny Bruso

Location: Portland, OR

Jenny Bruso (center) with a group of participants at a recent Unlikely Hikers gathering

Description: Jenny Bruso is a self-identified fat, femme, queer, writer and former  indoor kid who, in 2012, went on an accidental hike revealing a new life trajectory of healing, self-care and adventure in the outdoors. Through  sharing her personal stories and the @UnlikelyHikers  Instagram community, she wants to bust up preconceived notions of what an “outdoorsperson” looks like and put a spotlight on diversity,  inclusion and representation. She lives and adventures in Portland, Oregon.

Leah Evans

Location: Revelstoke, BC

Description: Leahs uses creativity to make and create events/space that will connect people to themselves and nature. For example, she’s created airplanemodecamps.com, the Cabin Jams film and Girls Do Ski. She was also featured as a volunteer in the film Jumbo Wild.

Meg Haywood Sullivan

Location: Venice, CA

Description:  Meg Haywood Sullivan is a photographer & environmentalist who splits her time between shooting campaigns and pushing for environmental stories through editorial features & social platforms. Meg’s career has taken her from contributing to a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece with the New York Times, to photographing with the world’s leading snowboard brands, to documenting a feature with National Geographic Adventure following John Muir’s footsteps on the fastest retreating glacier in Yosemite.

In addition to shooting for environmentally-minded companies like KEEN, Patagonia, prAna, and Clif Bar, she also participates in leading climate change panel discussions. With her degree in environmental studies and nearly a decade’s worth of experience as an outdoor photographer, Meg is constantly in the works with projects that use adventure and storytelling as a way to teach Gen Z to Gen X about the importance of our natural landscapes and global warming.

Meg is currently a leading ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our oceans through a powerful activist network, as well as an ambassador for Protect Our Winters, the premiere climate advocacy group for the winter sports community. Meg is also a board member on the Mountains Restoration Trust.

Marshall Masayesva

Location:  Hopi Reservation, Northern Arizona

Description: Marshall is Reed Clan from the village of Bacavi on the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona. He received a B.A. in Adventure Education from Fort Lewis College in 2014. Since moving back home, he has focused on creating service and recreation opportunities for youth and young adults on the Hopi Reservation. He is currently the Field Coordinator with the Southwest Conservation Corps Ancestral Lands Hopi program, where he coordinates service opportunities for Hopi youth and young adults. In his free time, he is the Program Director of Adventures for Hopi, an adventure education/recreation program designed to get Native youth outside.

Marshall was a member of the 2017 Emerging Leaders Program.

Vasu Sojitra

Location: Bozeman, MT

Description: When Vasu was only nine months old, he was diagnosed with septicemia, resulting in the amputation of one of his legs. Since then, Vasu has not looked back; with the help of his parents, brother, and friends, Vasu has built up the confidence needed to face new challenges with grace, courage, strength, humor, and unwavering determination.

Vasu witnessed extreme poverty growing up in India, and has been living most of his life with a “dis”ability. He looks at these experiences as a blessing; they have allowed him to truly hone in on his ability to empathize with others. He continues to strengthen this muscle by pursuing his passion of helping others through his work in advocacy for those who face mental and physical limitations. Vasu will continue to inspire others to be a positive influence in their own communities by pushing personal limits, putting others first, and encouraging people to believe in themselves and in their own unique abilities.

Clinical Research

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Center for Nature and Health

Location: Oakland, CA

Description: The Center for Nature and Health (CNH) serves families who have been most impacted by health disparities, and often have the least access to nature. CNH created some of the first-ever validated protocols for physicians to integrate nature-based behavioral interventions into their practices. Through innovative partnerships, they extend access to nature for patients and communities served by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.

CNH’s most significant contribution to date include:

  1. Through numerous national and international events, CNH has advocated for the importance of gathering an evidence-base for nature as important to clinical medicine. CNH conducted and published the first-ever randomized trial of a park prescription program. With one trial completed, they now have 2 more trial results in press for publication, and will be starting a systematic review and qualitative study this fall.
  2. CNH created the first billable nature clinic in the country. They have created a model whereby clinics bring nature into clinical space through large posters in the waiting room and wall hangings in clinical rooms that highlight local parks. Then, they automated their nature referrals through their Electronic Medical Records so that patients are booked into a “clinic” when they receive a nature prescription. Then, families gather once a month for a clinical nature outing, which is now billed to insurance. This clinic, called the SHINE (Stay Healthy In Nautre Everyday) Clinic, has had more than 63 outings and is in the fourth year of operation, and has served thousands of families. While many have already learned from their model, this model will be scaled through a training and on-line tools to be distributed fall 2018.
  3. Training. They are the first medical residency program to integrate nature into doctor’s training. Pediatric residents in their first year rotate through the SHINE program and come on the nature outings. This has implications for their learning about how to integrate nature into clinical medicine, and also for their own mental health and burn out. They will be holding the first ever clinical medicine training for nature and health on October 27, 2018.
  4. CNH stands with numerous community partners to advocate for the importance of nature in the lives of those who are most impacted by health inequities. As the largest pediatric safety-net hospital in the Bay Area, they serve families living in poverty. They have pushed the national dialogue towards one which includes families living in poverty both in who is researched and who receives services. Their research and clinical care is unique in that they serve low-income families, most of whom are families of color.

Measuring the health impacts of a nature prescription program required interdisciplinary and imaginative collaborations in order to know what to measure. CNH worked with UC Berkeley Master’s students to identify that stress relief in parents and resilience in children were the outcomes that were of importance to the families they serve. While the national dialogue focused on physical activity for park prescriptions, CNH knew that for the families they serve, physical activity would be a piece of the prescription, but not necessarily the motivator in getting outside.

Surf and Hike Therapy for Active Duty Service Members

Location: San Diego, CA

Description: Some evidence supports the benefits of exercise as treatment for mental health symptoms, and recent work suggests that the benefits of exercise may be even greater when it occurs in the natural environment. However, this line of research is in its infancy, and research to date has typically not examined the immediate effects of outdoor physical activity, examined longer-term effects of this type of activity, or compared multiple types of outdoor physical activity to determine whether they are equally beneficial. The Surf and Hike Therapy Study for Active Duty Service Members with Major Depressive Disorder is being conducted by the Naval Health Research Center and Naval Medical Center San Diego. The study uses a stringent study design and validated measures to provide a strong test of the relative merits of surfing and hiking for mental health, both immediately and in the longer term.

The study compares the benefits of two interventions – surf therapy and hike therapy – for the psychological and physical health of active duty military personnel. Findings of this effort will contribute to a growing body of scientific research showing the importance of time spent in nature for human health and well-being.

Results from Phase I show that surf therapy—largely provided in the context of other traditional treatments —was associated with a variety of positive outcomes over the 6-week program, including reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, and negative affect, as well as improvements in positive affect. More immediate effects of surf therapy include a decrease in depression/anxiety, and an improvement in positive affect over the course of each surf therapy session. Data are currently being collected in Phase II of the study, a randomized controlled trial comparing surf therapy and hike therapy for service members with major depressive disorder.

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