A special place in the woods of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, set the stage for our first Natural Leaders Legacy Camp in August of 2012. New relationships were built and our energy aligned. Participants from 16 different states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia 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 Democracy.com. 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 Emeritus 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.

As our network expands, we continue to intertwine our lives and share experiences in getting more children into nature. This year we are very excited to continue our efforts and build upon success in this movement! IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, Washington, will set the stage for our 2013 Legacy Camp with generous support from The REI Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The North Face. It will take place from August 26th-August 30th and fifty-two slots are available, which has increased from last year! Participants will exemplify the characteristics set in place during the previous application process: action-oriented, self-motivated, can-do attitude, connector, interested in the outdoors and working with a diverse team, passionate, positive, adaptable, creative, dedicated and aware of the needs of their community. They will meet past Legacy participants that have joined our core team and become an integral part of promoting our mission and participating in national events such as Let’s G.O. Get Outside! 2014. We have much to look forward to as we step into summer!

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