Anybody who spends time outdoors will tell you that they get something special from the experience. That something special is unique to every single person. It could be physical or mental health benefits, family bonding time, personal rejuvenation, creative inspiration…. the list is endless. No matter what it is, we all get something positive out of getting outside. One thing that I’ve noticed in the outdoors community, is that thing we get from being outside often translates into something we want to give back or to pay forward to others so that they can get something special from getting outside, too.
I know many of you reading this already give back or pay it forward to your community in some way. I also know that sometimes people want to make a difference but may not know how or what to contribute.There are a lot of other ways you can give, especially if you don’t have a bit of extra dollars available. So, I thought I’d give you a few examples of how we try to return a little bit of what we have received from being an outdoor family.
The Sometimes Eventful family has shared hours and hours of laughter and made incredible memories by getting outside. We’ve also had some pretty crappy trips and not-so-great moments which have actually turned into awesome “remember when” stories. We know that getting outside has been a huge factor in the incredibly strong bond we have as a family. One of my biggest motivators for this blog is to share our stories and photos to try to help encourage others to get out there and do something and benefit from all the awesomeness of being active in the outdoors. I want moms and dads to know that they can get out there with their kids and have a great time… car camping, glamping, back-country camping, hitting a local trail, outdoor skating rink, or whatever suits their interests and abilities.
The #WeGetOutside Twitter Chat is also all about community and sharing information with others. My biggest goal for the chat is to motivate and educate through the vast knowledge and experience of the awesome outdoors enthusiast community who gather on Twitter. I may not be the most experienced or educated of the group by a long shot. (Really – I wrote this article on Confessions just three years ago) But, I can facilitate bringing those folks together. I’m proud to give back to the community the way I have gained from the community. And guess what? If you participate in the chat, you are also giving back by sharing your knowledge and stories.
On a much more personal level, I also make financial donations to organizations that provide opportunities for others and/or help protect the environment. There are many, many organizations that need your help. Check out CanadaHelps.org to find a charity that fits best for you. This is a great website that provides a “one-stop shop for donating or fundraising for any registered Canadian charity on line”. CanadaHelps.or is connected to every registered charity in Canada and has been around for over 16 years!
At my workplace, fundraising for the United Way is a huge campaign. Recently, I was asked to donate some “Time or Talent” to a fundraising auction for the United Way. I donated a Geocaching Adventure, where I volunteered my time to take a group out on a local trail and teach them how to geocache. Turns out, the person who purchased my time and talent wants it to also be a winter adventure where we’ll go geocaching on snowshoes. She has never geocached. She has never been snowshoeing. I get to introduce her and her friends to both activities! And, we raised some money for an organization that benefits our community in so many ways. How awesome is that?
I have also donated framed photos taken on our outdoor adventures to charity silent auctions. I see this and my “time and talent” donation as a two-for-one deal. My photos help raise money for excellent causes and they help raise awareness and promote getting outside in the beautiful Ontario outdoors.
Volunteering is another great way to give back or pay it forward. Alex and I had great time volunteering with Emma’s Brownie unit a few years ago, where we taught the girls and a few other parents how to geocache. We chose a trail with some really cool geological features, and take along some garbage bags for a trail clean-up. The kids learned geocaching, local geography and Leave No Trace principles all in an hour long Brownie meeting. There are so many places looking for engaged volunteers! You probably already know that that your kid’s schools and activity groups need volunteers. So take a look at some other areas, like your local conservation authority or hiking group. Your outdoor skills and enthusiasm would be welcomed. Some conservation authorities have subscription lists or web pages specifically to advertise volunteer opportunities.
To be honest, I always feel like I’m not quite doing enough to give back to my community – the one where I live AND the ones that provide me with incredible outdoor recreation. So, I encourage you to share your ideas and stories for giving back and paying it forward here. Your idea may spark an idea for someone else, adding even more value to your own gift of giving.