The Outdoor Adventure Club (OAC) went on their first outing on Saturday Oct. 27th. The day’s events centered around a hike to the top of Mill Mountain where they toured the Discovery Center, roasted their dinner over a fire, and looked ahead to a year of adventure.
For those hearing about the OAC for the first time, here’s a brief timeline of the how it came to be:
- In 2017, Roanoke Outside in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) created the Outdoor Explorers Program for underserved youth aged 8-10. The program pairs together each youth (referred to as a Little) with a Big Brother or Sister (referred to as a Big). It has been an awesome success and the OAC became the next logical step for serving youth aged 11-13.
- Then, Roanoke Parks and Recreation joined the partnership, and combined efforts to win grants for the program from Keen and The North Face ($5,000 and $8,000, respectively.)
- On September 28 of this year, members of the OAC met for the first time in the Market Square for a free screening of An American Ascent, a film about the first All-African American team to hike Denali, North America’s tallest peak. That night, they also met and ate dinner with Scott Briscoe, one of the mountaineers in the film. Fittingly, Mr. Briscoe was also a Little with BBBS in his youth.
By providing 12 months of outdoor adventures, one-on-one mentorship and support, as well as transportation, instruction, and proper gear, the OAC is eliminating all barriers to the outdoors for underrepresented youth in Roanoke. You can imagine how excited we were that their first adventure took place within the city, just a few minutes from their homes!
The day began at the base of Mill Mountain where the group participated in a few getting-to-know-you games. Then, Outdoor Recreation Supervisors Matt Allenbaugh and Susan Herndon-Powell lead them in important preparations: teaching about the 10 Essentials for Backcountry Travel, outfitting Littles with appropriate outdoor gear (shoes, daypacks, and more secured through grant funds and donations), and helping them to set group expectations by creating a Full Value Contract.
Then, they ascended the mountain! Along the way, Littles each took a turn as the leader, setting the pace for the group and taking pictures. Aaron, one of the Bigs, says his favorite part was watching his Little, LJ, point out things like different leaves along the trail. One of the Littles, Mushy, says her favorite part was “making it to the top!” And who’d blame her with amazing views of her city and a giant star at the summit?
The club was also afforded a few glimpses at wildlife on this inaugural trip. They spotted deer in the woods while hiking, and, upon reaching the Discovery Center at the top of the mountain, watched the resident black snack enjoy his lunch (from within his terrarium, of course!)
The day was capped off as any good outing should be: with food and a campfire! Littles gathered wood and learned what it takes to build a fire that follows the principles of Leave No Trace ethics. Then, they were rewarded for their effort by roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the flames.
What an awesome day! So much ground covered, in so many ways. We are so glad to see the positive attitudes of the Littles and can’t wait to see what is over the horizon for them on their next outing not to mention the progress of a unique project that will help them commemorate their adventures, but more on that next month!
Follow along on the Outdoor Adventure Club Blog as we post an update following each outing.
To catch more of the action, follow PLAY Roanoke on Instagram and keep an eye out for our monthly story takeovers.
To participate in the conversation surrounding the OAC and outdoor mentorship in our community, join the Friends of the Roanoke Outdoor Adventure Club Facebook group!