The Bridge to Nature program is getting kids safely outside, playing and learning. (Courtesy photo)

As working parents struggle with school closures and virtual instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilderness Youth Project (WYP) is delivering safe, outdoor environmental education through the Bridge to Nature program.

Major support from Jane and Paul Orfalea and the Audacious Foundation in the form of a $100,000 grant has helped subsidize the program’s costs, getting hundreds of kids safely outside, active, and learning with highly trained mentors while their parents work to support their families.

In addition to the immediate $100,000 donation, the Orfaleas and the Audacious Foundation have issued a $50,000 challenge grant to encourage others to support the Bridge to Nature program, allowing more children to be served.

The challenge grant will match donations dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000, through the end of October. Every dollar raised will help WYP provide proven educational programs to low-income students outdoors, safely, and in person.

“Low-income families who have to go to work to survive financially can’t pay for high-priced camps or private childcare like others do in our community,” said Dan Fontaine, executive director at WYP. “This funding will help us serve children who need help the most.

“The Orfaleas and the Audacious Foundation have always understood the importance of children being active and learning outdoors. Working with our Public Health Department and following state and national guidelines, we are proud to continue the Bridge to Nature program for the tenth year.”

The 350 students being served this fall were identified by community partners, teachers, and school administrators as those with the highest needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has widened existing gaps in educational equity. With schools returning in a distance learning format, low-income children are uniquely impacted by the absence of in-person instruction and enrichment programs during the school day.

Trauma and adverse childhood experiences exacerbated by the pandemic will have lasting effects, and children need positive mentorship and nature connection now more than ever.

“This pandemic is taking a heavy toll on children. Spending all day inside is not a healthy or happy childhood. Kids need to be outside — exercising and playing actively,” said Paul Orfalea. “We’re supporting WYP because they’re the pros when it comes to nature based learning.

“We hope others will join us in getting children outside safely during this pandemic with WYP’s Bridge to Nature program.”

“I’m very concerned about the lasting health impacts of prolonged inactivity as a result of this pandemic,” said Dr. Tony Rogers of Santa Barbara County Public Health and WYP Board secretary. “This funding helps WYP address some of those threats to the future health of children in our community.

“WYP is their best way to play safely and smartly outdoors. WYP makes kids smarter, healthier, happier and safer.”

Those wishing to support Bridge to Nature programming for students with a donation toward the challenge grant may visit WYP’s website at Donations will be matched by the Audacious Foundation through the end of October, up to $50,000.

To learn more about the Audacious Foundation, please visit