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NC Wildlife Federation #SpotlightOnCLT Great Outdoors

North Carolina Wildlife Federation

Engaging in the natural world is a cornerstone of NCWF history and philosophy. Supporting access to wild places and opportunities to enjoy them is a defining feature of their organization. NCWF works collectively for the places and species that have no voice through their policy and protection work, research and education and direct hands-on conservation projects.  We spoke with Kristine from NCWF for our #SpotlightOnCLT Great Outdoors series about how the Charlotte community is impacted in a big way by this nonprofit.

What would you like the community to know about the challenges your organization is trying to solve?

North Carolina Wildlife Federation is dedicated to ensuring that people, especially kids, have strong affinities for the outdoors and opportunities to connect with nature. If we don't have connections built on outdoor experiences such as fishing, camping, hiking or just exploring outside, we'll lose the next elected officials, voters, decision-makers and business leaders who care about stewardship. If there are no experiences other than static learning from books and media, we lose the commitment and the deep-in-the-bones need to support conservation.

What is your organization’s role in the community?

Since 1945, North Carolina Wildlife Federation has worked for all wildlife and habitat, bringing together conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, hunters and anglers, government and industry to protect North Carolina’s natural resources. From the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, NCWF is a diverse community of people who value wildlife and wild places and the many ways to enjoy them.  Since N.C. Wildlife Federation launched its Great Outdoors University (GoU) program in 2013, more than 106,000 kids and their families have headed outside, a living laboratory where they learned about and experienced the wonders of nature. Whether they take place on a trail or in a stream, GoU’s adventures are as diverse as the participants, who range in age from 4 to 18 and come from urban and rural communities. The 1,043 excursions hosted to date at 40-plus destinations have included fishing, hiking, biking, canoeing, gardening, bird watching, archery, scavenger hunting, hands-on experimenting, and identifying wildlife and their habitat. No matter where they live or what their economic status is, every young person should have access to life-enhancing opportunities. With support from 45 community partners such as Boys & Girls Clubs, GoU helps break down barriers and create more inclusive opportunities to get young people outside.

We love impact stories, could you share one?

When club kids have equal access to enriching programs that teach life lessons and build confidence, they thrive. Many are skeptical at times to try something different, but with GoU, they always enjoy new experiences. One teen was afraid to go on a canoe trip, so she went to watch the others. But then decided to go and came back raving about how fun it was. She was proud of herself for trying a new experience. Some GoU kids have a traumatic home life or a history of abuse, neglect or addiction. Two sisters from a couple of summers ago who were taken from their mom and placed in foster care. While a loving family later adopted the sisters, when they first started going on GoU trips, they were sad about their home life and didn’t like to be outdoors. By the end of the summer, they loved animals, nature and being outside. They were hands-on and ready to go and the first ones in creeks trying to catch little salamanders, tadpoles or crayfish - an amazing change in such a short time. The sisters also loved the fresh air, peace and quiet, and calming effects of being in nature.

About the image pictured above:  Great Outdoors University (GoU) - an N.C. Wildlife Federation program - isn’t your typical classroom. There aren’t any walls, desks or textbooks, and no test-taking under harsh fluorescent lights. Instead, there are green spaces, fresh air and sunshine, and lots of opportunities to get dirty and get moving while exploring the natural world.

Contact: Kristine Goodyear


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