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Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a national retail cooperative providing quality outdoor gear and clothing, has been honored by National Geographic Adventure magazine and National Geographic Maps in the first annual The Outdoor Geographic Awareness (TOGA) Awards. The company was recognized in the outdoor retailer category at the country’s largest outdoor gear and apparel tradeshow recently held in Salt Lake City.
The TOGA Awards seek to identify and showcase outdoor retailers, manufacturers, nonprofit and government organizations, and individuals that find new and creative ways to promote geographic awareness and build outdoor participation. The awards reflect National Geographic’s mission to inspire more people to care about the planet and encourage individuals of all ages to explore the world around them.
â€œREI is not only encouraging existing outdoor enthusiasts to try new sports through their diverse educational and outreach programs, they are also building an entirely new generation of adventurers through their youth programs,â€ said Mike Dyer, product manager, National Geographic Maps. â€œThis, in combination with their broad reach, important environmental work and industry leadership, made them a clear choice for the first-ever TOGA Award in the outdoor retailer category.â€
The 2008 TOGA Awards were determined based upon the applicant’s overall contribution to increasing geographic awareness during the previous calendar year. Evaluating factors used by National Geographic include the overall reach, effectiveness and creativity of a program, product or service; the benefit to the outdoor industry; and how easily a program may be replicated so that others can build upon it to increase its influence. Award winners of other categories include:
â€¢ Outdoor Manufacturer: Patagonia
â€¢ Nonprofit: The Conservation Alliance
â€¢ Individual: Sam Drevo, founder of eNRG Kayaking
â€œREI is honored to be recognized for our programs and efforts to help others lead active outdoor lifestyles and ensure that access to our natural spaces remains today and for future generations,â€ said Michael Collins, vice president of REI Public Affairs. â€œWe are proud of the accomplishments of our employees and nonprofit partnerships, but recognize there is much work that remains in introducing more individuals to the wonders of the outdoors.â€
Companywide, REI is focused on increasing participation and environmental stewardship among youth and adults. Its corporate grants effort is centered on two pillars: outdoor recreation and conservation. Since 1976, the co-op has provided nearly $27 million to nonprofit organizations, and in 2007 the company donated $3.5 million to 360 local and national groups working in these areas.
Examples of the company’s outreach efforts include REI Kids’ Passport to Adventure, a summer-long program for families to get youth active in the outdoors through recommended family-friendly hikes, bike rides and other activities. The Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids (PEAK) program teaches youth about environmental ethics. PEAK was developed in partnership with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. In 2007, nearly 14,000 children registered for Kids’ Passport to Adventure and the PEAK program taught more than 142,000 children outdoor ethics.
REI Outdoor School is offered in select cities across the country, providing new and current outdoor enthusiasts, individuals and families an opportunity to be introduced to new outdoor skills or relearn outdoor hobbies. More than 9,500 individuals participated in REI Outdoor School last year.
Additionally, the company provides thousands of opportunities at the local level for classes, activities and volunteer projects for youth, adults and families. In-store events are hosted in communities by REI employees, nonprofit partners and other knowledgeable experts. Last year, the company engaged more than 33,000 volunteers in 688 service projects around the country through volunteer efforts coordinated by REI store teams.
REI is a national outdoor retail co-op dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Founded in 1938 by a group of Pacific Northwest mountaineers seeking quality equipment, REI is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.