Carol Leone is being honored as a Next Generation of Conservation Leaders Champion of Change.
Many of us grew up in a time when, as kids, every minute we were not sitting in school was spent playing outside. Summers in particular meant endless hours of outdoor adventures — exploring the woods, building tree forts, turning rocks over in the creek, running through lawn sprinklers, biking the neighborhood, and generally getting dirty from head to toe! We did not pursue these outdoor activities because they were healthy for us. We were kids, after all, and spending time outside was just plain fun!
Today, a child’s life is spent mostly indoors. And a growing body of research directly links the absence of nature in the lives of today's youth to some of the most disturbing trends in childhood obesity, attention disorders, and depression. This growing disconnect is putting the mental and physical health of our youth at risk. But, what can we do?
Seven years ago, Teens To Trails was founded to help reverse this trend because we believe that LIFE HAPPENS OUTSIDE! We targeted teens as no other age group shows the signs of nature-deficit disorder more acutely. Our mission was based on a simple, replicable concept: If every high school in Maine offered an Outing Club program, every student would have access to safe, healthy and fun outdoor experiences just at the time in their life when they need positive choices the most. Since that time, the Teens To Trails movement has been fully dedicated to increasing the opportunities for teens to experience the out-of-doors through a variety of programs that promote and support high school Outing Clubs. Teens To Trails has been spreading the word that outdoor experiences are critical to the health and wellbeing of our youth, providing roots upon which to build their lives.
We need to acknowledge the importance of nature in our lives and recognize that unstructured time spent outside is not just leisure time — it’s an essential investment in our children’s health. We need to do all we can to increase the opportunities for all young people to experience the out-of-doors — to learn about themselves as they learn about the natural world that surrounds them. I have no doubt that, given the chance, teenagers will once again discover the joy and wonder of nature and their lives will be enriched in body and spirit.
Carol Leone is the Founder of Teens To Trails, a charitable nonprofit helping teens get active outdoors by promoting and supporting high school Outing Clubs. Their goal is to spread Outing Clubs across Maine and beyond so that every teenager has access to safe, fun outdoor activities regardless of prior experience or family income.