Denny McFadden is a retired teacher whose dream was to introduce urban youth to the great outdoors. “For many years while teaching in the Cincinnati Public School district, I facilitated annual team building canoe trips for students and fellow teachers. During those outdoor adventures, I witnessed a number of amazing things happen among our students and staff. Lots of kids and adults who had never paddled a canoe struggled mightily. Some became increasingly frustrated and discouraged as they tried to keep their boats upright and pointed downstream. Eventually, however, the skills of each and every paddler improved, and as we progressed downstream, the more capable and confident everyone became. By the trip’s end, they had conquered their fear of the unknown. As the students and staff exited the river at our designated take-out, their expressions and exclamations said it all. They had grown as individuals and as a group – in so many ways!!!”
Denny witnessed first-hand the multiple ways in which outdoor activities in nature benefitted his students, and wanted to give low income, disadvantaged teens living in urban area the opportunity to experience hiking, biking, paddling and other activities. He also recognized that these activities can help build leadership skills. So, after his retirement, Denny launched a pilot Outdoor Adventure Club program at three area high schools: Withrow, West High and Woodward. In addition to taking part in outdoor adventures during the school year, Club members will be engaged throughout the summer as volunteers for local outdoor recreational events like Paddlefest, as paid interns working outdoors in city and county parks, and as facilitators for their schools’ Summer Bridge outdoor enrichment programs. Thanks to support from Activities Beyond the Classroom, GEARUP, GRAD Cincinnati, Green Umbrella, FamiliesFORWARD and the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, the pilot launched earlier this year at its capacity of 45 students.
Thank you, Denny, for your vision and for being on the “front line” in the movement to reconnect children with nature!