In my small hometown there is a famous fourth grade teacher. She retired this year after 30 years of lumberjack dioramas, trips to Old World Wisconsin, and countless changes in education requirements handed down from the state and feds. Each year when the latest crop of seniors graduates from the high school, her "favorites" from that year receive a copy of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the places you'll go". Yes, I did receive one of this iconic gift.
Since I have left my small hometown, the underlying theme of this story has stuck with me. As I reflect upon the path OTA has taken in the last handful of years, the strides we've made in such a short time, excitement about its future doesn't seem quite powerful enough to describe my feelings. Kira and I get the privilege of experiencing OTA's magic with our participants on every trip. We see and hear the impacts it is making on queer young people. My biggest regret in this whole process is not possessing a way for EVERY person we interact with, whether it be a potential donor, grant maker or community member, to experience what we do every time.
If I think of OTA as a person, it feels as though this next year represents that of your average 5 year old. It's mobile, and generally sturdy, gaining a growing sense of independence every day, but still needs support from a loving community. My dreams for OTA are big. I want a robust summer of overnight programs in the Pacific Northwest, and to be able to offer programs closer to my roots in the Midwest. I want year long day programs that help bridge the gap. I want the outdoor industry, our parks and programs across the country to become more queer inclusive. I want this next generation of queer young people to be able to learn just how queer nature really is.
We all know it takes a village to raise a child, and so too does it take a village to support an organization that is supporting those children. If you think OTA's mission is worthwhile, I ask you this: what places do you think OTA can go and how can you help us get there?