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Now through August, REI’s Passport to Adventure program invites kids aged five to 12, and their parents to go on five kid-sized, family-friendly hikes recommended by local REI employees who want to share their passion for hiking with others. Information for parents describing each of the five hikes â€“ none of which are too difficult for families new to hiking â€“ along with driving directions and helpful tips are available at REI stores nationally beginning this week. While in the store, kids can pick up their own special passport-style trail hiking journal to jot down field notes, attach photos, create drawings, play games such as â€œAnimal Tracks Matchâ€ and â€œHiking Haiku!â€ and capture their thoughts about each hike.
In addition to the keepsake trail hiking journal, children who successfully complete the five hikes can have their â€œpassportâ€ stamped and will receive a free Passport to Adventure water bottle, as well as a certificate commemorating their accomplishment. At the program’s conclusion in August, many REI stores across the country will be planning parties for children to celebrate their completion of the hikes with other participants.
â€œWith parents becoming increasingly concerned about youth inactivity and childhood obesity, we hope this program provides inspiration in getting kids to set their computers and video games aside, and go outdoors to play this summer,â€ said Sally Jewell, REI president and CEO.
For parents such as Evon Smith, who resides with her two young sons in a Seattle area suburb, the program will provide a welcome diversion to her kids this spring and summer. â€œI told my kids about the program, and at first they were a bit hesitant, but once we hit the trail, the passport content generated a lot of interaction. By the end of the hike, they asked to go on another the next day, wanted to get their friends involved, and used photos from the hike as their computer screensaver,â€ says Smith. â€œThe program also serves as an introduction to a new form of recreation for my oldest child who is diabetic, and has an even greater need to keep active and healthy.â€
REI member Richard Louv, author of the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, adds that some kids may be more interested in reaching the next level of a video game, than completing a hike. â€œBut parental persistence, taking the long view, will pay off soon, in better mental and physical health for your children, and later, when your kids come to you as young adults and say, â€˜Remember that time we went hiking? That was the best summer ever.’â€
â€œWe hear from parents that they want to introduce their children to outdoor recreation and to help them experience nature, but that they don’t know about good places to go or how to get started. Hopefully our hike suggestions and tips for parents offered through this program will remove that barrier,â€ said Jewell. â€œBecause each hike is between one and two miles round-trip, and all are considered either easy or moderate, the program is well-suited for families of all abilities.â€
EDITOR’S NOTE: Interviews with local family hiking experts and program participants, as well as hiking and Passport to Adventure logo images and b-roll are available upon request.