Outdoor Nation makes it cool to be an outsider

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Summer is winding down, but back-to-school blues don’t have to take over just yet. That’s because Mountain Equipment Co-Op is hosting MEC Outdoor Nation from September 20 to 21, and this party will make up for those pencils and books you’ll be lugging around in your backpack.

Outdoor Nation combines an altruistic purpose (designing creative solutions for youth to get outside) and a big, old-fashioned party. Plus, it’s free: Just apply by September 3, and your transportation, drinks and food, and an event-ending Jon and Roy performance will all be covered.

After speaking with Andrew Sutherland, MEC’s Public Relations Specialist in Vancouver, I found myself wishing I was between the ages of 18-27 so I could go, too, and get the sweet schwag bag.

I heard the youth of today are all about being inside and playing video games. How will Outdoor Nation entice these lovers of the dark to step into the sunlight?

It’s true that between the ages of 18-27, we generally migrate from the field to the flat screen, but no HDTV can measure up to a truly immersive experience like wrestling your friend off a paddle board or kissing your crush under the stars. MEC Outdoor Nation is the ultimate multi-player game, where you choose your role and shoot-up as much positive change into the world as you desire. There’s awesome live music, photo-worthy food, cool people and it’s all expenses paid. Come into the light my friends and be an outsider!

How did this leaf-loving extravaganza begin?

It all started with a 500-person summit in NYC’s Central Park. With support from Outdoor Nation, the 18-27 year olds who attended returned to their communities and launched projects with the goal to get young people active and outside.

For example, Jessa Madosky, 28, received the funding and help she needed to restore an eight-acre natural area that was eroding before her eyes. James King, 25, is spearheading a project that addresses barriers to the outdoors faced by young people of colour in Atlanta such as transportation, equipment, and meals.

Needless to say, MEC is psyched to import this movement into Canada.

What can “yoots” expect from the event this year? What’s the takeaway?

There will be summits in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal over the next year, but Vancouver’s MEC Outdoor Nation is the launch, so firstly they will have the bragging rights associated with making history.

We’re inviting 150 youth between the ages of 18-27 to the beautiful Cheakamus Centre near Squamish (transportation will be provided from Vancouver). Attendees will create and pitch grassroots projects that address challenges in getting outside in their communities. Working sessions are interspersed with outdoor activities, hands-on workshops, and inspiring speakers.

The top three projects (as voted on by the yoots) receive funding from MEC. After the summits, more funding for projects will also be available.

We camp overnight, with gear provided by MEC and our sponsors. Evening highlights include live music from Victoria’s Jon and Roy, endless s’mores, socializing and sleeping under the stars.

What’s the best project completed by ON?

That’s like asking me to choose between my favourite beaches! Here’s a couple Outdoor Nation U.S. projects that get me excited about the diversity of what MEC Outdoor Nation will support in Canada:

Tuesday Loerbs, 19, created a project that inclued the creation of a large scale mural about John Muir, an early wilderness advocate in the United States. Working with a professional artist, High school students researched, designed and painted the mural near the John Muir National Historic Site.

Jessica Snyder, 24, is behind The Women on the Water program, which provides 45 female high school students from Philadelphia and NYC the opportunity to explore the outdoors. This project will enable these young women to paddle and sleep on the river, volunteer in a park and serve as mentors and interns at Pocono Environmental Education Center.

Let’s put Vancity Buzz readers out of their misery. How can they apply?

Applications can be found at https://outdoornation.mec.ca/en/register/ and the deadline to get on board is September 3.

*End of interview*

 

Feature Image: MEC / Outdoor Nation

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Sarah Gray is wearing a few hats these days, as a public relations manager, part-time writer, and radio producer. She is a fan of beach days, wine, and peanut butter, and is the proud mom of a rescue pup named Walter.
@GraySazz

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