Natural Leaders are trained and motivated to join the movement and take children outdoors!

By Katia Rossi

I’m excited to report that our first Natural Leaders Network Legacy Camp was a success! Countless memorable moments come to mind as I reflect back on our time in the woods of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The word that defines the force behind our new members the best is “connection”. I think we would all agree that long-lasting friendships were made. In fact, the new Natural Leaders’ experience and passion was exactly the fuel we needed to feed the flame! Not only were we there to provide participants with professional support, but also personal support through our training sessions and leadership-based activities. We wanted them to really feel how our network embraces the mission, while at the same time, strive to form a family-like atmosphere. Each day, new relationships were built and our energy aligned. The FLOC (For the Love of Children) Outdoor Education Center created the perfect space to meet our outdoor needs and set the stage for all the magic to happen.


As our National Coordinator Juan Martinez reminded us, it has been three years in the making to get to where we are today. This is our moment to define what success is going to look like. Those of us in the core team have received the tools and training in years past, taken it back to our communities, and now we’re coming back to lead and support our new members. In each of our roles, together, we are helping “move the movement” and empowering more young leaders.


Participants at the Legacy Camp had the opportunity to develop personal stories, identify different leadership styles, share cross-cultural ideas and create action plans. Attendees gained firsthand knowledge about community organizing from speaker Ray Rivera, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Also in attendance was Nate Hawley, US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Branch Chief of Career Awareness, and Martin LeBlanc, founding Board Member and Vice-President of the Children & Nature Network. Most essential, each of them identified key issues and joined self-led home group discussions to tackle the topics that were most relevant to their own community needs. Working with the Sierra Club’s Outings handbook, attendees completed workshops and role-playing sessions on a variety of topics including trip planning, group management, safety, trip communications, Leave No Trace, and child abuse recognition. Each of these young leaders left the Legacy Camp ready to engage their communities in sustainable solutions for Nature-Deficit Disorder.


Taking our individual backgrounds and coming together with our knowledge and experience represented the perfect opportunity to learn and engage with each other. All of our sessions were met with insightful discussion and sharing of ideas.  We also had a regionally-based home group for participants led by each of the trainers that allowed small groups to form within the larger group and mentoring relationships to be formally established with a solid structure. The quality of the dialogue and ideas that came from these discussions provided strong evidence that our selection process for identifying the next group of Natural Leaders was successful with keeping to our mission. Our kudos box, a wonderful opportunity to submit “thank you” comments, was filled to the brim each afternoon and evening.


Excitement and fun also came during our six and a half mile whitewater kayaking trip down the Shenandoah River, ending at the Potomac. The scenery was amazing and a bald eagle flew right over us at one point! Splashing, chatting, and meeting new challenges at every rapid presented just another opportunity to bring us all together. We even paddled right over the spot where the state lines are painted, while our amazing guide Mr. Mike shared facts about American history.


The entire week was a perfect combination of purpose, diversity, and positive experiences to drive us forward. What will come from this Legacy Camp is momentum, defined as “the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity.”


Following the Legacy Camp, the participants will be asked to lead four events in their communities in the following seven months. These events are a Let’s G.O.! (Get Outside) event, a service project, a house party on Nature-Deficit Disorder, and Outings Leader training. “Once you have people inspired, action is the next step to taking your cause to a movement. The key to doing this is to provide your audience with the tools and resources they need to go out into their own community and bring in new members,” stated author Jennifer Berry, a staff writer for Earth911, in an article written about successful ways to boost your cause.


Well, we have done just that, and our continued guidance will help support each of them back in their own community. After all, Juan Martinez said it best: “This is the way to build a legacy, to continue building the movement!”

In addition, Christian Alvarado has put together a wonderful video of our Legacy Camp for all to enjoy -

Remember, you can also see photos and follow our activities by liking our Facebook group!

The Natural Leaders Legacy Initiative received generous support from The North Face, the REI Foundation, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Read about the Core Team here (



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