2021 Executive Director's Message & Annual Report
To view our 2020-2021 annual report, please click here
Unprecedented. Resilient. Pivot. Survive. 2020 and 2021 brought SO. MANY. CHALLENGES, both for organizations and individuals, but (and maybe I'm biased) ESPECIALLY for families. I've used those four words above to describe the situation and our response so often that I thought I would just get them out of the way from the start. There was a pandemic. It changed everything. We're still here!
That is what I want to focus on when I share what we have achieved in the time since our last report. Honestly, the pandemic sucked, but through it Hike it Baby has done a lot of growing. Similar to the developmental growth our kids experience, we have had some melt downs, regressed here and there, but ultimately, we're leaping to each new milestone. In the following pages you will read about that growth and the accomplishments we are proud of. I hope it excites you as much as it excites me!
I think it is important to acknowledge that in early 2020 we spent a lot of time looking at our mission and thinking about what it really means to be a nonprofit organization that serves a community of people. We decided we want to be really action focused, which translated to removing barriers and creating opportunities for families to take their first steps outside together. Once we understood that, we were able to define the specific values we wanted to use to help us hold tight to our vision of a world where everyone can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of spending time outside.
The next big step was for us to take a hard look at what we do and how we do it. Our traditional activities - community hike events, had to go on pause due to the pandemic so we could help families stay safe. I'm proud to say we came up with some quick and effective options to keep inspiring families and building community, even when we couldn't gather in person. We also used that shift to begin to build a new frame for our programming.
Community hike events will always be part of our core identity, but the truth is not every family has the time, privilege, or ability to show up for a 10am hike on a Tuesday. Additionally, many families have never experienced the outdoors and don’t feel safe, included, welcome, or culturally connected to spending time in nature as a family. We asked ourselves how Hike it Baby could better serve and support a wider audience of families since we believe every family has the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. As we looked inward and thought about how we wanted to connect, empower, and impact families, three programmatic pillars took shape:
Our Turn the Blues Green program is focused on maternal mental health and introduces new parents to the benefits of time spent in nature for both themselves and their babies. You really can start getting outside with your baby from birth and we want to help families feel confident and supported while doing just that.
The Bring it Outside program develops tools, activities, and events that motivate families to get outside year-round, meeting them where they are and helping them get outside in the ways that work for their families. Let’s face it - we may know that it’s good to get outside, but as busy, tired parents, it isn’t always easy. Bring it Outside is our answer to help inspire and empower families to enjoy time outside together in whatever way that works for them.
With We’ve Got Your Back, we transform the power of community into a practical resource hub focused on helping families build confidence, have fun and find a sense of belonging in the outdoors. Kids don’t come with manuals, but as parents, it sure feels like we could use one! We’re here to help provide practical, how-to information, helpful gear (backpack, baby carrier, extra diaper or snack, anyone?), and a welcoming community that will meet you where you are to start or continue your adventures outside as a family, whatever they may look like.
We will continue our community development programming - supporting our branches and Ambassadors with grassroots efforts and allowing them to implement their own versions of our programming in their local communities, creating welcoming spaces and encouraging families of all kinds to get outside. Our Family Trail Guide resource continues to grow and we’re thrilled. We hope it will keep helping families identify greenspaces in their neighborhoods and allow them to feel more confident to explore parks and trails where they live. Have you met Wox, our Wander Walk Fox, yet? Wox came to life in 2021 as a supplemental event kit resource and has been making appearances in communities all over the US and will continue to do so.
The Wander Walks program makes it easy for families to get outside and have fun together in nearby nature, local parks and green spaces. Wander Walks use activity-based signage that supports early childhood development and encourages nature-based play. They are bilingual (English/Spanish), accessible, created with multiple ages and abilities in mind and introduce concepts of environmental conservation and stewardship.
2021 brought some pretty extreme challenges including parenting through the pandemic, two thirds of our staff going on parental leave consecutively (but yay for 4 new babies to celebrate!), half our staff team leaving to care for their growing families or for jobs that can pay them better, all while we were navigating the ongoing design and implementation protocols for in person gatherings across 270 unique communities with differing mandates, recommendations and responses. (2020 was supposed to be the hard part, right?) Yet we have been able to implement new elements of all three program pillars, evolve and grow our supporting programs too.
We worked with SCL Health in Denver to support postpartum moms with a series of new mama hikes, focusing on the benefits of hiking with baby, developing and distributing our Turn the Blues Green booklet which included tips, tricks, advice and journal prompts. In Oregon we were able to secure a generous $48,000 grant, (our biggest yet!), from the Oregon Community Foundation which allowed us to implement a series of Bring it Outside workshops.
The program reached out to underserved communities to bring sixty families in two locations. Each family received over $250 in gear, bilingual resources, and participated in facilitated family group hikes over the course of six weeks. Thanks to connections made in the workshops we started a Spanish speaking group and a new branch in a rural community at the request of the participants, who were eager to continue enjoying the outdoors together. To show families We Got Your Back, we brought Hike it Baby and some of our community partners to their neighborhood, offering two different events at parks in high equity neighborhoods in the Portland Metro area.
We worked with partners like the City of Gresham, Portland General Electric’s Project Zero, Access Recreation, the NW Family Daycation app, and a few of our corporate partners like Joules, Teton Sports, LL Bean, Turtle Fur, Merrell, Onya, Burley, Adventure Medical Kits and Sunday Afternoons to give away gear. Wox showed up with Wander Walks for families to try. Printed activity sheets and workbooks were available in English and Spanish. We brought a carrier library so families could try out different ways to wear their babies.
My favorite part - we met families where they were and showed them we were there to help them have a good time outside, no strings attached. We didn’t ask them to come out of their way to find us. We didn’t ask them to do anything for us. We smiled, played, and had fun together, which I hope is a more meaningful way to start a beautiful friendship and ongoing sense of community and belonging.
Our vision has colored the ways we partner too. As you have read, we’re building new opportunities and asking our partners to join us in different ways. We’re committed to working with partners who believe in building authentic relationships and redefining what it means to be outdoorsy. In that vein, we are excited to work with our partners to elevate voices, telling the stories of a variety of families and their unique experiences, the barriers they’ve faced, and how finding a supportive community has helped them enjoy the outdoors with their families. We’re excited to come together and co-design content that highlights our values and helps families feel empowered to go outside.
Finally, we want to learn together, exploring and discussing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors, understanding the historical context, the current experiences of marginalized communities and work together to take action to change that narrative so the next generation can feel the sense of belonging and love they will need to inspire them to take care of our outdoor resources for lifetimes to come. 2022 promises many opportunities for us to continue our work. Our goals are to:
Put on three additional Bring it Outside Series Workshops in three new locations across the US to provide families with the resources and gear they need to get outdoors as a family.
Partner with additional hospitals and healthcare systems to support new parents through booklets, hike events and community outreach.
Host We Got Your Back events with local community partners in at least two locations so we can meet new families who might not otherwise have opportunities or feel welcome to get outside.
Run four unique virtual challenge events for our entire community to help inspire time outside in the winter, explore the benefits of sensory play in the spring, find nearby parks in the summer, and explore neighborhood nature in the fall.
Continue to support our local communities through outreach and group hiking in 270+ branches
I know these are lofty goals, but we’re really excited about them. I see so much potential to touch more families than ever before, to inspire and empower them to enjoy time outside, to connect communities and create lasting friendships, all while raising a generation to love the outdoors. I hope you will join us! --Jessica For more information, check out our annual report here
OutGrown is a 501(c)(3) nonproﬁt that works to create a world where everyone can enjoy the physical and mental beneﬁts of spending time outside. We are focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their ﬁrst steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, beneﬁt from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. Since its grassroots inception in 2013, OutGrown is a growing community of 280,000 families and over 300 volunteer Branch Ambassadors. More information on all of our programs can be found at WeAreOutGrown.org
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