OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City was just selected as one of four winners of a new “Thrive Outside” grant, funded by major outdoor brands. The initiative will expose children to outdoor activities they may not have tried. 

Fewer than half of Americans say they participated in an outdoor activity in all of 2017, according to the most recent Outdoor Participation Report. It is a trend that we see locally with more children choosing screens over streets for play.

Oklahoma City is home to a variety of world-class outdoor activities, but the communities just north of the Boathouse District, and even right across the river, do not always feel like they are welcome. The new initiative is all about inclusion.

“We hope to make a generational impact to where kids growing up in OKC will really maybe look at their city a little differently,” said Mike Knopp, executive director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation.

The Boathouse Foundation is leading the charge, bringing together city parks, schools, after-school programs and community agencies to introduce new options to kids in underserved areas.

“The parents are out there hustling, making money,” explained Dr. Raul Font, president of the Latino Community Development Agency. “These kids go home…they’re just sitting in the community in a wrong situation where other people are preying on them to lure them to the bad.”

The Outdoor Foundation will match $410,000 in local donations to develop outdoor clubs, and pay for field trips and access to experience sports like kayaking and rafting.

“These kids that are in the middle school and high school are into exploration,” said Font. “That’s how you sell it to them.”

The effort will focus largely on minority communities, including Native American tribes that have cultural ties to paddle sports.

“It’s not just about getting these kids active,” Knopp said. “We’re introducing an industry to Oklahoma City, so kids who can get exposed to these outdoor adventure activities could get a job.”

As programs are implemented over the next three years, the goal is to expose every kid in the city to fun under the sun. To learn more, click here.