Wilderness Youth Project

By on Nov 27, 2022 in Giving

Yardi is committed to supporting the community in every city where our offices are housed. Each year, the company distributes philanthropic aid to organizations selected by its employees.

In 2021, Yardi offices supported more than 350 nonprofits worldwide. For the remainder of 2022, we will be bringing you the stories of those organizations and insight into how they aid their communities.

Today we introduce you to the Wilderness Youth Project (WYP), a Yardi-supported nonprofit that was founded in 1999 in Santa Barbara, Calif. WYP connects children to nature in small groups guided by inspired, skilled, and committed mentors and volunteers. WYP envisions teaching the next generation of children to be peaceful, respectful, and confident stewards of the world.

Children in nature, landscape, outdoors, and scenery

“Nature connection makes life better for kids,” shares Chandler McLane, donor relations manager for WYP. “Time in nature makes kids happier, healthier, and smarter.”

At WYP children play, learn, and grow in Santa Barbara’s natural beauty. They get to have adventures and explore the outdoors for more green time, not screen time. Children gain confidence, a heart for adventure, and care for others. Having these types of experiences will help children grow up healthy and happy.

WYP is planning to expand its fully subsidized Bridge to Nature program to more schools and community centers during the school year. The Bridge to Nature program serves the community and meets participants where they already are so they do not need to find transportation to WYP. Going outdoors is one of the best ways to keep children excited about learning and to build their connection with the natural world.

“Our Bridge to Nature program exists as a way to bring WYP to locations that have more limited nature access at no cost to participants,” said McLane.

Yardi has been in support of WYP since 2005. Funding from Yardi has helped WYP with its Bridge to Nature program by allowing them to purchase a new van. “Because of this, we will be able to take more children out to nature-rich locations all over Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria” shared McLane.

WYP also plans to acquire two new vehicles in the year to come, that will help fulfill the vision of providing WYP programs to local youth across the demographic spectrum.

Nico’s story

Nico started WYP when he was four years old. His mother recalls calling the office and crying tears of joy at the possibility of a scholarship, which made his participation possible. As a child with developmental delays, Nico struggled with social interactions and the ability to balance input and stimulation. His early experience with Wilderness Youth Project, though, was the first time Nico was appreciated for who he was and not for all his deficiencies. WYP saw the bigger picture of who Nico was and respected his personality and the gifts he had to offer to the rest of the group.

Children, forest, landscape, outdoors, healthy, nature, happy, exploring

At age five, Nico was diagnosed with autism and ADHD. During that time, he was challenged with perseverating and getting stuck on concepts. With a one-on-one aide, he continued participating in a Wilderness Youth Project after-school program where WYP mentors channeled his challenges into productive energy.

With time, Nico developed a connection to nature, as well as a connection with others. Through his regular time in nature with a WYP mentor, all of Nico’s deficiencies were built upon with intentional guiding and nurturing.

Nico’s mom remembers one of the best phone calls she ever got from a WYP staff member. After Nico had been going to WYP with a one-on-one aide for years, a WYP mentor called to ask her if she would be open to having Nico come to the program without an aide.

“She was in awe of the training and the heart our staff had to integrate all of what Nico was into our programs without additional support,” shared McLane. “WYP has a way of honoring the sense of self, sense of others, and sense of nature in a holistic value. Children can embrace their full identities while knowing they are an asset to the group.”

Every year at the school IEP meeting, his mom emphasizes her desire for Nico to grow into a contributing member of the classroom and community, and each year he continues to make gains. His social interactions and time in nature give him the tools to problem-solve with peers inside and outside of the classroom. 

“Nico continues to join Wilderness Youth Project camps during the school year and every summer through scholarships that you make possible,” said McLane.

Volunteer Opportunities

Stay up to date with all things Wilderness Youth Project has going on by following them on social media, signing up for their e-newsletter, and reading their blog.

“It’s a great way to see how Yardi’s generosity is making an impact in our community,” shared McLane.

WYP offers volunteer opportunities all year long. Ideal program volunteers are age 18 and older, can receive and respond to emails, are curious about nature and the outdoors, and can commit to either one to two weeks in the summer or once a week during the school year. For more information visit their volunteer page here or email their volunteer coordinator at [email protected]. Find future non-profit profiles at https://www.yardi.com/blog/category/giving.