It was a first for mother and son alike when Ebony Pernell and her son De’Anthony traded the comfort of their bedrooms for a tent last fall.
“It was our first experience going camping, but I’m all for supporting my kids,” Pernell said. “Me going camping with him is a memory he will carry with him forever. I might even do it again.”
It’s that type of memorable experience that Trailblazing Hope Outdoors offers Miami Valley young people. Launched in fall 2020, Trailblazing Hope Outdoors was established by Jonathan Slider to empower youth through access to nature while fostering their physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual development. Through a variety of free outdoor programs and adventure experiences, middle and young high school-aged students create a foundation on which to build a lifelong appreciation of the great outdoors.
“It’s humbling how much support we’ve received and exciting to see how far we’ve come,” Slider said.
The program more than tripled the number of participants from 2020 to 2021 and Slider expects that growth to continue. Partnerships with Five Rivers MetroParks, Greene County Parks and Trails, Wright State University Campus Recreation, Athletes in Action, Beaver Creek Wetlands Association, Mike’s Bike Park, RiversEdge Outfitters, and the Miami Valley Orienteering Club have enabled the organization to offer a wide variety of events and experiences, all of which are free to attend.
What started primarily with students in Greene County has expanded to include Dayton residents including DECA Middle students like 11-year-old De’Anthony.
“My son is a gamer but now, with Trailblazing Hope Outdoors, there is a balance,” Pernell said. “This is his niche.”
There are plans to expand the organization’s offerings including its first overnight summer camp at Germantown MetroPark. Camping, fishing and hiking will be just part of the fun for the young adventurers.
Trailblazing Hope Outdoors focuses on recreation, education and conservation through a combination of outdoor programs and adventure experiences.
Outdoor programs vary by season with this year’s winter program covering Leave No Trace, basic first aid awareness, basic land navigation and connectedness and mindfulness. The spring series will focus on conservation with naturalist guided hikes, a trail clean day and river sweep day.
The Trailblazers April adventure experiences will take them to new heights as they will try indoor climbing at Wright State for the first three Saturdays followed by outdoor climbing on April 23. They will cap off the adventure with a trip to Athletes in Action High Ropes Challenge Course in Xenia.
With conservation as one of the organization’s guiding principles, creating lifelong outdoor stewards is a priority.
Trailblazing Hope Outdoors has several certified Leave No Trace trainers among their volunteer ranks, teaching best practices to the young Trailblazers.
“We want them to understand this is not just about play,” Slider said.
They put in the work, collecting more than 200 pounds of trash last year.
And the learning extends beyond the young participants.
“De’Anthony is exposed to all these different activities, and he can teach us now,” Pernell said.
To learn more about Trailblazing Hope Outdoors, visit www.trailblazinghope.com.
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