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REI to invest $1 million in Outdoor Foundation's Thrive Outside program, youth development initiatives

Published November 8, 2018

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Outdoor Foundation's focus is on building the outdoor habit, so young people gain a lifelong love of and connection to the outdoors and receive the many health and wellness benefits


DENVER – REI Co-op is investing $1 million in the Outdoor Foundation, the charitable arm of Outdoor Industry Association, to support the Thrive Outside program, designed to help young people's social, emotional and academic development through the outdoors. REI joins VF Corp., Patagonia and Thule, which all made significant multi-year pledges during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in July.

REI's pledge to the Outdoor Foundation happens as the outdoor community gears up for the fourth year of #OptOutside. In 2015, REI closed its doors on Black Friday and paid its employees to spend the day outside with their loved ones. REI invited the world to join its employees outside, and over the past three years, 15 million people and 700 organizations have joined the #OptOutside movement.

The Outdoor Foundation's Thrive Outside program is focused on getting kids and families of diverse backgrounds outside to enjoy the many health and wellness benefits of nature. The goal is to grow healthy individuals and build healthy communities by weaving the outdoors into families' day-to-day routines and providing consistent outdoor programming. REI's pledge will help build out critical work in select communities across the country focused on how access to the outdoors can help with youth development.

According to the Outdoor Foundation's 2018 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, getting kids and families into a regular routine of exercising and playing outside is an extremely challenging goal. The report found the following:

91 percent of Americans say getting outside for their health is moderately to extremely important, but their actions do not reflect this
20 percent of Americans participate in an outdoor activity only once per week, and 50 percent of Americans are active outdoors only once per year
Less than 21 percent of children are active outdoors once or more per a week

"We've got a responsibility as an industry to transform the way the next generation brings the outdoors into their lives," said REI COO Eric Artz. "Time outside is transformative for our kids. It helps them grow in ways that don't exist in a classroom or on a screen. And it lays the foundation for them to be healthier, happier, more connected to their communities, for the rest of their lives. We're proud to be a part of this work, and we hope REI's investment will encourage other businesses inside and outside the outdoor industry to invest in what the Outdoor Foundation is doing for our children."

"REI leads on a lot of issues, but no single one is more important than the organization's increased emphasis on access to the outdoors and learning how nature helps our kids develop," said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. "REI's investment will, no doubt, help reverse the disturbing decline of outdoor participation and hopefully inspire other outdoor businesses to support the Thrive Outside program."

"I'd like to thank REI for showing significant leadership through their $1 million pledge to the Outdoor Foundation," said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation. "REI's investment will help fuel a movement by funding diverse Thrive Outside Communities with the overall goal of making getting outside a healthy habit for all."

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