Kaylie Erickson, Marketing and Events Senior Coordinator, Outdoor Outreach
Outdoor Outreach, a nonprofit dedicated to serving disadvantaged youth through transformative year-round, trauma-informed outdoor recreation programs – entered into a unique partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego to serve young men and women experiencing behavioral health challenges.
The four-month collaboration took place from March – July 2019 and engaged 24 youth (ages 14-17) from Rady’s mental health and medical outpatient facilities in nature-based experiences designed to increase personal resiliency outside of the traditional therapy setting.
Participating youth were accompanied by a licensed clinical social worker for 32 outings that included kayaking trips, rock-climbing excursions, team building activities, yoga, and mindfulness exercises. They also explored the caves at La Jolla Cove, learned about environmental issues, and practiced mindfulness throughout their experiences.
“When climbing and looking down it was really scary and climbing was difficult just like at school. Both are difficult, long and scary but just like rock climbing I can get through and make it.”, shared one program participant.
Youth facing mental health challenges often do not respond well to common practices like one-on-one therapy sessions. Growing evidence suggests that nature-based experiences have a range of benefits, including increased attention and reduced sadness and fatigue, lower physiological stress and more positive moods and emotions.
In addition to its dedication to San Diego area youth and as a member of the Parks Now coalition, Outdoor Outreach has worked alongside organizations across the state to shape funding policies that ensure that urban, low-income youth have access to the coast and to programs that empower young women and men of all backgrounds. Their programs support youth in San Diego County who may not otherwise have opportunities to experience outdoor recreation, environmental education, and stewardship activities, like the innovative program developed in partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital.