If you are reading this post on the Mountainsmith blog, chances are you already have a strong appreciation for the outdoors.  It is also likely that someone is responsible for inspiring that interest in the outdoors.  During a small reception full of outdoor industry folk the night before Adventures Denver, Sara Romito, a sixth grade teacher from the Denver Green School asked us to raise our hands if we liked the outdoors.  No surprise, we all raised our hands.  Next she asked how many of us had our first outdoor experience before the age of fifteen.  A couple hands dropped but not many.  Next, she asked how many of us had that first outdoor experience with a school.  All but one of around 100 of us dropped our hand, forcing the rest of us to realize our good-fortune of being introduced to nature by an inspiring parent or mentor.

– From my post, Give a child a backpack, and they will carry it around town…, September 2012

Jeremy Dodge instructs sixth-graders at the Denver Green School on the set up of the Mountainsmith Conifer 5+
Jeremy Dodge instructs sixth-graders at the Denver Green School on the set up of the Conifer 5+

A year ago, I had the pleasure of representing Mountainsmith at the 1st annual Adventures Denver event in Sloan’s Lake Park. The event is modeled off Backpacker Magazine’s very successful Adventures NYC, taking place each June in New York’s Central Park. Part of an Outdoor Industry-wide effort to ensure everyone has the opportunity to experience the great outdoors, Adventures Denver created brought an outdoor experience to city dwellers.

Ms. Romito’s experiment during the pre-event reception weighed heavily on my conscience. Suddenly, my fortunate upbringing with parents that took me camping, made my appreciation for the outdoors seem like a trust fund. Though my trust fund holds no monetary value, it accrues interest eternally and allows withdrawals seven days a week. I had never realized my wealth of outdoor appreciation, and became determined to share my wealth as often as possible.

Denver Green School students set up the Mountainsmith Equinox tent in their cafeteria
Setting up Mountainsmith tents in the cafeteria of the Denver Green School presented some added challenges, but students worked well together to practice their tent set-up.

I kept in touch with Ms. Romito, who has taken it upon herself to create an outdoor survival program for her sixth-grade students at the Denver Green School. Each year, her entire class ventures up to Golden Gate Canyon State Park to spend a few nights subsiding the woods. One year in and a class full of sixth graders that had experienced the great outdoors, Ms.Romito looked to expand the program.

The Mountainsmith Conifer 5+ set up on the soccer field at the Denver Green School
Preparing for their trip to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the students check to make sure the tents are ready to provide shelter.

From the photos I saw of her original trip, I noticed that the outdoor gear used on  the trip was all over the map.  The program had been pulled together with various contributions from families and Romito’s own equipment. I spoke with her at the event, and I came up with a plan to piece together Mountainsmith tents from parts in our storage room in our Golden office. Just from spare parts, Mountainsmith was able to donate 4 tents to be used by DGS.

Ms. Romito invited me in to speak in front of her class at the Denver Green School, to help prepare them for their upcoming camping trip. We talked about the Ten Essentials, reinforcing that high-energy foods for the outddors meant protein-rich calories, rather than Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy shots.

Jeremy Dodge presents to the Denver Green School students on the soccer field, setting up the Conifer 5+ tent
The students observe as Jeremy calls on volunteers to help demonstrate the set up of Mountainsmith’s largest tent, the Conifer 5+.

On another visit, we tested all of our tents to make sure they were prepared to provide shelter in the wilderness. I have to say, I was more than impressed that the 50 or so students were able to work together to erect more than ten tents, without anyone losing an eye!

At the end of the 2 hours I spent with the class, I can say I was exhausted and happy to head back to my office. For that reason, I have tremendous respect for Ms. Romito and the staff at the Denver Green School. To my knowledge, leading a camping trip for their class was not part of the required curriculum. They have taken it upon themselves to give the gift of an outdoor experience to these children. I can attest from my few visits to the school, that leading this trip once a year is a monumental task, but the effects will ripple in eternity.

 

 

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