"Our ultimate goal is to help young people learn outdoor skills and foster an appreciation for the natural environment, while understanding such exposure helps develop responsible, healthy, confident and enlightened adults who, in turn, will pass on their meaningful experiences and good values to the next generation." – from the Donate-A-Pack mission statement
Everyone knows if you're heading into the wilderness on a backpacking adventure there are a few choice pieces of gear you need, but a lightweight, comfortable backpack is essential. Even day hikers find a small pack a handy place to carry along extra water, food, and a change of shirt or socks.
And while dozens of community organizations offer opportunities for kids to learn safe and responsible wilderness travel, parents aren't always in a position to spend on outdoor gear when more basic needs like food, rent, and education may be pressing – especially in our current economic climate.
John D. Mead, president of the long-time San Diego and Southern California outdoor retailer Adventure 16 (A-16), recognized this need during one of the A-16's annual gear swap meets. With the help of outdoor colleague and 1996 American Hiking Society volunteer of the year David MacDonald, Mead founded the Donate-A-Pack Foundation in 1997. Within a matter of weeks, Donate-A-Pack had donated some $6,000 worth of gear to youth-focused outdoor organizations.
In particular, the Donate-A-Pack Foundation assists outlets that specialize in at-risk or underprivileged youth, like the Adventure Nature Camp, Destiny Education, Outward Bound, and Big City Mountaineers, all of which give kids who may have never had an outdoor experience a chance to learn outdoor skills as a means of developing confidence and becoming aware of experiences beyond their communities.
By providing access to overstock items and used gear from Adventure 16 customers, much of it in pristine condition, the Donate-A-Pack Foundation has been integral to the success of organizations like the Foundation for the Junior Blind, which offers hiking and camping experiences for visually impaired young people, and Camp Laurel, a Pasadena-area camp which gives children living with HIV and AIDS opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Both John D. Mead and David MacDonald join Tommy for this special edition of Treehuggers International.
A former San Diego broadcaster and media personality, Tommy Hough is a wilderness and conservation advocate, communications professional, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.