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. 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 have the ability to donate financially. There are a lot of other ways you can give back, especially if you don’t have a few extra dollars available. So, I thought I’d give you a a couple of examples of how we try to return a little bit of what we have received from being an outdoor family.
At my workplace, fundraising for the United Way is a huge campaign. Over the past few years, I have been a canvasser as well as a campaign chairperson. I also contributed to a fundraising “Time and Talent” 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. Auction participants bid on my donation. Turns out, the person who purchased my time had never geocached. I got to introduce her and her friends to a great outdoor activity! 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. My photos help raise money for excellent causes and they help raise awareness and promote getting outside in the beautiful Ontario outdoors.
Volunteering for a non-profit or community organization is another great way to give back or pay it forward. There are so many places looking for engaged volunteers! You probably already know if your kid’s schools and activity groups need volunteers. But consider looking into volunteer needs in 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. A few years ago, Alex and I had great time volunteering with Emma’s Brownie pack, 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.
If you do have a bit of room in your bank account, to make a financial donation, 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.org is connected to every registered charity in Canada and has been around for over 18 years!
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 give me incredible outdoor recreation. So, 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.