Jeff Falyn and Lyndsay Dawkins of Winters claimed the National Kids and Trails Award last week at the American Trails International Symposium near Scottsdale, Ariz. The award recognizes their work with Tuleyome’s Home Place Adventures program.
“Wow, we feel so fortunate!” Fayln said. “This program is still growing and we couldn’t be more excited about the direction it’s headed. Home Place Adventures provides young people with opportunities to get outside, learn about their surroundings and feel connected to something much greater than themselves.”
The award was presented by American Trails, a national nonprofit organization working on behalf of all trail interests, including hiking, bicycling and mountain biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, water trails and trail use by motorcyclists, ATV and four-wheeler enthusiasts and snowmobilers.
The Kids and Trails Award honors efforts to engage children and youths in outdoor experiences using, but not limited to, trails. The award also focuses on creative interpretive, educational and recreational design components, along with innovative programs that stimulate children’s imagination and promote their interest in and appreciation for the natural environment while developing healthy lifestyles.
Last summer, Home Place Adventures partnered with five teen organizations and more than 35 volunteers, including naturalists, teachers and business leaders who led and assisted the youth outings. The program reaches hundreds of deserving youths, helping them develop an environmental ethic and active lifestyle. The program focuses on nature awareness, sustainable living, leadership skills and getting youths involved in community giving projects.
Home Place Adventures is sponsored by the Wynant Foundation, PG&E, U.S. Bank and Conaway Preservation Group LLC, among others. The program was established in 2006, with the creation of a Summer Youth Outdoor Exploration program initially designed to provide rafting activities for underserved youths.
Since then, the program has evolved to include environmental and community-based themes and a variety of outings. Home Place Adventures is an umbrella program that includes a Youth Outdoor Exploration Program, Nature’s Theater and Tuleyome Trails, a program to build and maintain trails throughout the local region, founded by Andrew Fulks, Tuleyome president.
The Youth Outdoor Exploration Program facet of Home Place Adventures offers diverse outdoor experiences. Last year, during a 12-week period, Falyn and Dawkins ran 18 outings with youths ranging in age from 11 to 17. But the couple recognize there are many more children to reach, citing an apparent “disconnect” between today’s youth and nature.
Some of the children who recently participated in the program, for example, had never hiked before or had an opportunity to play and swim in a lake. Many thought it would cost money to visit public lands and said they didn’t understand that it was OK for them to go out and explore nature.
“Teens want to belong,” Lyndsay Dawkins said, “but with few opportunities to connect to positive role models, they usually look elsewhere. Often, ‘elsewhere’ is an unhealthy option, and both the youths and the community suffer. When youths connect to their surroundings and environmental issues via shared experiences with peers and mentors, they feel included, develop a sense of purpose and become involved community members.”
Dawkins and Falyn also operate a separate program that opens up the outdoor world to play and exploration, called Nature’s Theater. Through live-action storytelling, Nature’s Theater helps young people experience the natural world first-hand, with joy and wonder.
The program encourages older teens to take on the role of storytellers and leaders by providing them with easy-to-learn stories to tell to the younger children. As children participate in these interactive stories, go on quests, solve mysteries and meet costumed characters, their senses are heightened and they become more aware of their environment. The young participants not only retain what they learn, but are eager to share it with others.
“The success of this program has and will always be the people who volunteer their expertise to lead the outings and to those who see the value in Home Place Adventures and donate financially to its continuation,” Dawkins said. “If you are interested in collaborating, and becoming part of the Home Place Adventures mission, please reach out. When a community works together, great things take place.”