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Muddy Sneakers Annual Report Fiscal Year 2020-2021

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2020-2021

ANNUAL REPORT


OUR MISSION is to awaken in children a deeply felt

connection to the natural world—one that inspires

curiosity, stimulates learning, and brings new life to

classroom performance.

1 A Note From Our

Board Chair

2 Fiscal Year Overview

3 The Importance of

Muddy Sneakers

4 Programming:

2020 - 2021

School Year

8 Camp Muddy

Sneakers

10 Why I Give

12 Gratitude to You!

13 Corporate Partners

14 Thank You to

2020-2021 Donors

16 Many Pathways

To Giving

16 Board of Directors,

Piedmont Advisory

Council, Staff

18 The Path Forward:

A Note From Our

Executive Director


A NOTE FROM OUR BOARD CHAIR

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your investment in Muddy Sneakers!

In 2020, even with the global Coronavirus isolating

so many at home, your support made it possible to

increase children’s connection to nature, build scientific

aptitude, and enhance the quality of education for the

students and educators.

With the onset of the pandemic and the closing of

schools, our program team sprang into action, creating

resources for homebound families to get outside, and

actively listening to school educators to learn how

we could be of service. We heard many stories about

the lack of access to resources making school life

challenging for teachers and students. And we heard

concern about health and wellbeing, especially with

lack of connection and increased screen usage.

Your investment sets

us on a path to ensure

all kids can grow,learn,

and explore in nature.

As the staff took action to meet the needs of our schools, our Board rose to the challenge

of enhancing our organizational vision:

Muddy Sneakers envisions a world where every child has the opportunity to form a

connection to nature and benefit from the wellness it provides. We are committed to

becoming a national model for closing the science literacy gap, inviting diversity into the

outdoors, and instilling an understanding of one’s role in the greater ecosystem. In doing so,

we cultivate healthier generations committed to the stewardship of our natural resources.

As we reach towards this newly adopted vision, we aim to scale our growth sustainably. We will

also continue to showcase how partnership from non-formal education organizations may be

the key to addressing the achievement and opportunity gaps yet solved by public education

alone. As a community, we represent the promise that meaningful connections to nature at a

formative age can lead to a life filled with wellbeing and active environmental stewardship.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, I am pleased to present our 2020-2021 Annual

Report. Whether corporate, foundation, or personal giving, your donations enable our work and

inspire young lives. Thank you! We share this annual report with gratitude and recognition for

the transformative difference you make for our students, educators, and state.

Chase Pickering

CHAIR, BOARD OF DIRECTORS

1


FISCAL YEAR JULY 1, 2020 - JUNE 30, 2021

REVENUE/TOTAL FUNDING: $1,472,246

■ Individual Contributions 44%

■ Grants 21%

■ Events 13%

■ Program Revenue 11%

■ PPP Loan Forgiveness Grant 11%

■ Corporate Contributions 0.50%

■ Other 0.50%

*Achieving this strong revenue year was exceptional on so many levels. It represents fiscally conservative

fund management, critical in weathering the pandemic during the 2021 fiscal year as well as continued

uncertainty around the economy and fundraising moving into fiscal year ‘22. Specifically, this success can be

attributed to a tremendous amount of strategy and hard work around securing both phases of Federal PPP

support, non-recurring Federal Cares Act funding to fund our Remote Expeditions curriculum project, and

continued support from private foundations and funders like you. Please know your investment in Muddy

Sneakers is stewarded with great care for lasting impact.

EXPENSE: $900,098

■ Programming Activities 75%

■ General Operations 14%

■ Development 11%

*In order to share our fiscal year 2020 - 2021 successes with you in a timely manner, we are reporting

unaudited financials in this document. This fiscal year audit is scheduled for October & November 2021.

We do not anticipate any changes.

MUDDY SNEAKERS

IS PROUD TO HAVE

ACHIEVED A PLATINUM

STAR RATING FROM

GUIDESTAR.

If you care about nonprofits and the work that they do,

then you are affected by what Guidestar does. GuideStar

gathers and disseminates information about every single

IRS-registered nonprofit organization. They provide as

much information as they can about each nonprofit’s

mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs,

transparency, governance, and more so that you can take the

information and make the best giving decisions.

2


THE IMPORTANCE OF MUDDY SNEAKERS

Fourteen years ago, our founders

created Muddy Sneakers to awaken

in children a deeply felt connection

with the natural world. At the time,

childhood was trending indoors, and for

far too many kids, access to nature was

determined by race, income, and zip code.

Today, those factors have not changed, and

screen usage for school and entertainment

is at an all-time high. Muddy Sneakers

provides expertise and opportunities

to get kids outside while meaningfully

bringing science to life and reminding

children of our interconnectedness with

our natural environment.

In addition, we support many 5th grade

educators whose standard course of study

often focuses heavily on learning to teach

English Language Arts and Math. Muddy

Sneakers brings expert Field Instructors

and a comprehensive standards-aligned

curriculum to help teachers close the

science literacy gap. A recent article

published by NC State University linked

participation in Muddy Sneakers to

higher than average science grades,

in general, and increased scientific

knowledge for fifth-grade girls.

This year Muddy Sneakers again

partnered with NC State to revise our

annual evaluation plan. The pilot student

survey saw measurable gains in science

knowledge, connection to nature, and

interest in science and nature. Students

also identified several specific memorable

moments. Over half indicated that their

Muddy Sneakers experiences made them

want to make a change in their lives,

including going outside more and pursuing

science in school or as a career. Our

evaluation revision is an iterative process

that is still ongoing, and we look forward

to sharing the 2021 - 2022 evaluation

results with you.

Scan me with a QR reader

to view the NCSU article!

To read NC State’s recent complete article, scan

the QR code or by visiting: https://muddysneakers.

org/news/for-girls-learning-science-outsidelinked-to-better-grades-knowledge

3


200

2020 - 2021 SCHOOL YEAR PROGRAMMING:

SERVING COMMUNITIES DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

In 2020-2021, Muddy Sneakers deepened our

commitment to our partner schools with unprecedented

flexibility and creativity. With a CARES ACT grant

from the Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council and support

from the National Recreation Foundation, we adapted all

expeditions for schoolyards and walkable neighborhood

parks while school transportation was unavailable. In

addition, we designed a completely new curriculum to

reach students wherever they were learning during the

pandemic year. “Remote Expeditions” included online

resources, live video lessons, and packet-friendly activities

that guided students at home and in school through handson

science and nature discovery experiences, bringing to

life the magic of Muddy Sneakers in students’ backyards,

courtyards, or schoolyards. The cross-curricular lesson

plans and rich resources targeted to multiple learning styles

received high praise from teachers and administrators

and earned a lasting place in our future partnerships with

schools across the state. New in 2021-2022, every Muddy

Sneakers partnership includes full, supported access to

Remote Expeditions, allowing us to integrate fully into the

entire science curriculum via the classroom.

ALL-REMOTE (never in-person)

786 TOTAL

HYBRID (meaning their combination of expeditions included at least 1 in-person and 1 REX/SAS)

522 TOTAL

ALL IN-PERSON (meaning they had 6 in-person, disregarding any variations in REX/SAS additions)

825 TOTAL

NUMBER OF

STUDENTS

SERVED

= WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA (1418 total)

= PIEDMONT NORTH CAROLINA (400 total)

800

= EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (315 total)

4


5


2020 - 2021 SCHOOL YEAR PROGRAMMING:

YOUR IMPACT THROUGHOUT NORTH CAROLINA

“In addition, as a teacher, I only have so many hours a day. So when I have a

partner [MS Lead instructor] that I can call, and they save me hours finding

the resources necessary to teach my students, it allows me to be prepared

and gives me back time with my family. I made sure that my Principal

and SuperIntendents participated, and we were all impressed with Muddy

Sneakers’ ability to get the kids to interact, both live and online. I highly

recommend it because as a teacher I didn’t have an extra thing to prepare.

My Muddy Sneakers experience was amazing! You get more than what your

money pays for, and the program saved me from buying resources online out

of my own pocket.” - MS. ANDREA JACKSON, JACKSONVILLE COMMONS ELEMENTARY

6


Western North Carolina

The WNC team was delighted to support teachers throughout the year, interact with

students remotely via “Skype a Sneaker” activities, and ultimately see more than 75%

of our students in person. Despite the uncertainties of a pandemic-influenced year, we

expanded to serve students in Watauga County for the first time. We also welcomed two

new and one returning school in Henderson County, a testament to that county’s stated

goal of scaling to provide Muddy Sneakers to all public school 5th graders by 2023-24. T.C.

Henderson Elementary in Transylvania County returned after a few years away, putting us

in every public 5th-grade class in each of three school districts: Transylvania County, Polk

County, and Asheville City Schools. Instructors reflected that the year felt busier, safer, and

more rewarding than they had expected. In total, we served 1418 students in 9 districts.

Piedmont North Carolina

In the Piedmont region, we enthusiastically began programming in a new district, Forsyth

County, with Rural Hall Elementary. While Rural Hall utilized the Remote Expeditions

curriculum. In Rowan-Salisbury Hurley Elementary was able to program with us entirely

in-person throughout the school year. Rowan-Salisbury School District granted Muddy

Sneakers special permission to program in-person with students during the pandemic

because our schoolyard model allowed adherence to the district’s Covid guidelines. While

some of our schools could not partner during the pandemic, we were still one of the only

external education partners trusted to provide programming, remote and in-person, to

400 students within three counties.

Eastern North Carolina

For the first time, Muddy Sneakers offered remote programming to the Eastern NC. With

support from the North Carolina Sustainable Forestry Initiative, State Implementation

Committee Grant, four ENC schools were granted a full scholarship for a half-year

Remote Expedition experience. The PNC office managed these four school relationships,

completing 15 total virtual instruction hours with students, four End-of-Grade test review

sessions, and providing science curriculum support throughout the school year. We served

315 ENC students within three districts.

7


8

“During the silent walk, I felt two things:

at peace emotionally, & I also felt a fuzzy

plant with my fingers!” – ETHAN, FRANCINE DELANY


CAMP MUDDY SNEAKERS

dventure is out there! With the sale

of the REEB Ranch in late spring

2021, Muddy Sneakers was thrilled

to bring Camp Muddy Sneakers to Historic

Everett Farms in summer 2021.

This 150 acres of conserved lands provided

an incredible site for five weeks of summer

exploration for children ages 4-11. Campers

explored hidden treasures found in creeks,

rock formations, meadows, and pine groves;

all while deepening a love and connection to

the natural world around them. After a year

of increased time spent indoors, worsened

by pandemic-related isolation, joy and

laughter filled the woods as campers played

and explored with their peers once again.

Muddy Sneakers would like to again thank

Everett Farms owners George and Carrie

Lenze for making this transition possible and

for their commitment to making sure this

incredible camp experience could continue

for the 200 children served.

“When I closed my eyes, I could hear so many birds and the wind.”

- MUDDY SNEAKERS CAMPER

9


WHY I GIVE

BY JAY LANIER

A person’s journey to environmental stewardsh

t just about every

environmental

non-profit event I

have attended, the gettingto-know-you

conversations

with fellow attendees tend

to follow a similar pattern.

You are likely quite familiar

with the “Where are you

from? What do you do? How

do you know our host?” line

of questioning as well, if

perhaps a bit less recently in

light of current events. My

favorite question to ask that

tends to punch through the

cursory, safe, and rehearsed

responses when at such

events is this one: “What

was the first place that made

you fall in love with the

outdoors?” Immediately, the

eyes of the conversant open

a little wider, the corners of

their mouth pull up, and you

can tell that they’ve gone to

a treasured and well-worn

memory to recall their first

profound encounter with the

natural world. The resulting

stories are all so varied, so

intensely personal, that it’s

impossible to categorize

them, but they all share

a few common threads.

Almost always, they were

kids during the encounter,

and often, they were with a

10


ip almost always begins with visceral, hands-on experiences early in life.

mentor in the moment. Also,

the event usually occurred

when the person was out

IN nature, away from the

comforts of the routine. In

short? A person’s journey to

environmental stewardship

almost always begins

with visceral, hands-on

experiences early in life.

Sometime about ten years

ago, humanity passed a

noteworthy demographic

boundary. We became an

urban species. For the very

first time in our existence,

more humans lived in and

around cities than in rural

settings. No longer can

most of us simply walk

out a door and into nature.

When also considering an

ever-growing population

that relies on basic natural

services like clean water,

air, and a stable climate, a

troubling equation emerges:

More humans, asking more

from our natural systems,

but with less exposure to

the places that teach the

necessity of stewardship and

conservation.

I give to Muddy Sneakers

because it provides such

an elegant solution to

this problem. There’s an

organization that can plant

the seeds of conservation

with kids who might not

otherwise have access to the

outdoors? Sign me up! Wait,

it also teaches the STEM

skillset necessary to protect

those same places in the

future? Take my money!

People care for what they

know intimately, so let’s make

sure our kids get to know the

natural world. I encourage you

to consider the role nature

has played in your personal

experience and growth as

a person. If you think you’re

better off for it, pay it forward

and give that same crucial

opportunity to another,

younger version of yourself.

Jay Lanier

MUDDY SNEAKERS BOARD MEMBER

11


GRATITUDE TO OUR 2020-2021 DONORS

Each year, we take the time to reflect and share our success with you, the

community that makes this work possible. Our Annual Report demonstrates all

we have accomplished over the last year as we continue to grow as a thriving

organization. Through your investment, this year, we supported educators and their

students during one of the most challenging years in recent history.

Together, we are creating nature connections for children that have the power to

impact the trajectory of their lives and their stewarding of our natural resources forever.

Imagine the impact on our beautiful state as each student internalizes lessons learned

throughout the program year after year. Thank you for investing in the children we

serve. In doing so, your gift is part of a movement to ensure our next generation holds

an affinity for nature, can access wellbeing outside, and walks into their future with the

confidence to become engaged, conservation-minded citizens. This is the heart of what

we do at Muddy Sneakers.

Thank you for supporting this vital work. We are proud to do it with you.

“Muddy Sneakers is an important program for our

children, and an important program for the state

of North Carolina.” – TOM EARNHARDT, PRODUCER, WRITER,

PHOTOGRAPHER, TV HOST, & MUDDY SNEAKERS BOARD MEMBER

12


2020 - 2021 CORPORATE PARTNERS

Biltmore

Community

Benefit

Antifragile Physical Therapy

Bee. Honey and Hive

Blue Ridge Outdoors

Blyss Running

Bracken Mountain Builders

Brevard Clay

Brevard Rock Gym

Brevard Yoga center, LLC

Carolina Cinemark

Cradle of Forestry of America

Davidson River Outfitters

Food Matters Market

Foot RX

The Gorge/Green River

Adventures

Gulo Composites

Hedrick Industries

Highland Books

The Hub

Industry Nine

Levi Strauss

MountainSong Productions

Navitat Canopy tours

Old Gray Goose

Pilot Cove

Pisgah Map Company

Poplar and Ash

PSAV, WNC Nature Center

WNCW

Contact us today to learn how you can reap the benefits of “doing well by

doing good” in your outreach and corporate social responsibility efforts,

while also investing in the next generation of active citizens.

13


THANK YOU TO 2020-2021 DONORS

GRANTS

NC Outdoor Heritage

Advisory Council

Judith Haskell Brewer

Fund of the Community

Foundation Serving

Richmond & Central

Virginia

Pisgah Health Foundation

National Recreation

Foundation

Z Smith Reynolds

The Sutherland

Foundation, Inc

Dogwood Health Trust

Margaret C. Woodson

Foundation

Beattie Foundation

NC Sustainable Forestry

Initiative

Lake Toxaway Charities

Bank of America

The Blanche and Julian

Robertson Family

Foundation

The Church of the Good

Shepherd

Henri Landwirth Family

Fund

SCHOOL

CHAMPIONS /

$10,000+

Jean & Chuck McGrady

Kathleen McGrady

Michael McGrady

Alice & Fred Stanback

Shelli & Brad Stanback

GROUP

TRAILBLAZERS /

$2,500 - $9,999

William Garvey

Whitney & Jay Lanier

Clary & Chase Pickering

L. Richardson Preyer, Jr.

Karen & Ted Ramsaur

Jacquelyn & Bruce Rogow

Maureen & David Watkins

Ida & Alva Whitehead

FOUNDERS CIRCLE /

$1,000 - $2,499

Missie & Greg Alcorn

Lucia & Stephen Bailey

Townsend & Hank

Birdsong

Peg & Dan Bresnahan

Anne & Grant Bullard

Gloria & Jerry Clouse

Sue & Dave Corby

Kristy & Billy Harris

Kay Hunter

Michelle & Mike Leonard

Margaret Mac Cary

Rebecca & Ed McKee

Rosalie & Neil Morris

Margaret & Gus Napier

Laurie Ombres

Missy & Sam Rankin

Missy & Sandy Schenck

Alexander & Laurinda

Schenck Fund

Mr. J.G. Strayhorn

Strayhorn Family

Charitable Fund

Aleen Steinberg

Babs & Bob Strickland

Jinx Vidrine

Martha & William Young

14


THANK YOU TO 2020-2021 DONORS

EXPEDITION GUIDE /

$500 - $999

Lauren & Matthew Agrella

Betsy Alexander

Joanne Bartsch

Tom Beroth

Patrick Brannigan

Donna & Philip Brown

Dan Cameron Family

Foundation

Helen C. Gift

Sydney & Michael Green

Patrick Haag

Charlotte Hanes

Dawn & Peter Johnson

Margaret & Harrison

Marshall

Amye & Marshall McCallie

Dwight Messinger

Susan & Scott Nelson

Edward Norvell

Cindy Ramsay

Devon Pickering

Liza Schillo

Charles Patrick

Thompson

Mona Lisa & Lee Wallace

STUDENT MENTOR /

$225 - $499

Steve & Jeanie Adams

Carey Aiossa

Gregory Andeck

Bess & Rod Baird

Laurel Bennett

Charles & Elke Burden

Suzanne & Dick Childs

Jane & Chris Dauster

Geraldine & William

Hambley

Connie Haskell

Fred Huang

R. Bruce & Sandra B.

Kirkman

Ruthanne & Henry Lucius

Rita & Don Martin

Elizabeth Menser

J. Gary Morgan

Marla Reardon

Linda Vandeweghe

Lauren & Fred Weed

Virginia Williams

John Wilson

Beattie & Jan Wood

EXPEDITION KIT

SPONSORS /

$100 - $224

Miriam Ash-Jones

Linda & John Austin

Joy & Randy Baron

Nancy & Frank Bell

Dianne Bienick

Anna & Bird Blitch

Jay Bolin

Michael Bratsafolis

William Brooks

Libby & Jerry Brown

Alex Bruce

Heidi Bullock

Elise Burnett

Beth & Harry Busbee

Paula Callaghan

Lucille & Peter Chaveas

Anne & Paul Coletta

John Cottingham

William Davis

Nancy Depippo

Terri & Cliff Dodson

Patti McAbee &

Tommy Eison

Linda & Edward Fradley

Lena Gallitano

Nathaniel Gallinger

Caroline & Angus Graham

15


THANK YOU TO 2020-2021 DONORS

Pam & Jeff Gross

Jared Haftel

Susie & William

Hamilton

Debra & Edward

Heimerdinger

Vicki & John Held

Wes Hogan

Kristen & Ray

Hohenstein

Sue Ivey

Cathy & Mark Janney

Patti & Philip Jerome

Donna Johnston

Thomas Jones

William Jordan

Nancy & Russell Knights

Page & Mark Lemel

Liz Preyer & Morris

Lestinger

W.H. Lowe, Jr.

Paddy Lynch

Nancy & Erwin Maddrey

Mary Marshall

Happy Martin

Katie & Sumner McCallie

Fawn Pattison & Grady

McCallie

Palmer McIntyre

Darcy Millard

Joan & Karl Munn

Mary Nichols

Jane Olson

Maria Whitehead &

Ryan Olson

Kristen Aquino &

William Osborn II

Lawrence Philips

Julius Ramsay

Jinks & Gale Ramsey

John Robbins

Jordan & Bradley

Robbins

Mary & Rich Schram

Robin Sjostrom

Kim & Wyatt Stevens

Transylvania

Garden Club

Unitarian Universalist

Congregation of the

Swannanoa Valley

Lisa Verges

Bruce Wallace

Susan & Trenholm

Walker

Lisa Wang

Thomas Westerman

Gail & Kent Wilcox

Muddy Sneakers

is made

possible

through the heartfelt

gifts from foundations,

corporations, and

individuals like yourself.

Now more than ever,

we are committed to

building a community

that believes all children

deserve meaningful

connections with the

natural world at a

formative age.

Muddy Sneakers

welcomes all giving

pathways, including

volunteering! To discuss

the right path for you,

please contact Muddy

Sneakers Development

Director, Jordan Robbins,

at 828-862-5560.

16


MANY PATHWAYS TO GIVING

Give Directly By Check

or Online

Please mail checks to:

Muddy Sneakers

P.O. Box 146,

Brevard, NC 28712

or visit

www.muddysneakers.org

to make a secure

online donation.

Give a Gift in Honor of

a Loved One

A donation to Muddy

Sneakers also makes

a great gift to anyone

who values a childhood

connection to nature.

Make a Gift of Stock

If you have appreciated

stocks, it is easy to make

a gift to us and receive

favorable tax treatment. For

example, a donor who gives

a gift of common stock held

longer than one year avoids

capital gains taxation on the

transfer, so the full value

of the contribution goes to

Muddy Sneakers.

Donate Through

Your IRA

If you are 70 ½ or older,

you may be interested

in lowering your IRA

withdrawals’ income and

taxes. Through an IRA

Charitable Rollover, you can

transfer up to $100,000

a year directly from your

IRA to a qualified 501(c)

(3) nonprofit, such as

Muddy Sneakers. The

transfer amount will not

be included in your taxable

income, and the transferred

amount can count towards

your required minimum

distribution.

Use Your Donor

Advised Fund to Give

If you have a Donor

Advised Fund (DAF), please

contact the organization

that holds the fund

to discuss minimum

contributions and

recommending grants.

Leave a Legacy

Invest in a generation

of people who have a

connection with the

natural resources in their

community. Legacy donors

fund students’ direct

experiences and invest in

the cultivation of stewards

who will care for the

incredible resources that

define their region. There is

no better example of legacy

giving. Muddy Sneakers

welcomes the opportunity

to think through ways in

which our donors can use

their estate as a tool to

ensure the Muddy Sneakers

experience will continue to

impact children well into the

future in their home region

and beyond.

Gifts of Real Property

Muddy Sneakers is open to

accepting real property gifts

that provide an opportunity

to serve an immediate

need or are marketable and

can be sold to benefit the

organization.

17


BOARD OF DIRECTORS, PIEDMONT ADVISORY

COUNCIL & STAFF - CURRENT YEAR ‘21 - ‘22

BOARD OF

DIRECTORS

Chase Pickering, Chair

Cliff Dodson, Vice-Chair

Anne Bullard, Secretary

Peter Johnson, Treasurer

Joanne Bartsch

Townsend Birdsong

Tom Earnhardt

Elizabeth Jordan

Mary Nichols

Nicola Karesh

Michelle Leonard

Jay Lanier

Emeritus Board

Members

Gloria Clouse

Ben Geer Keys

Chuck McGrady

Sandy Schenck

Aleen Steinberg

18


PIEDMONT

ADVISORY COUNCIL

Missy Rankin, Co-Chair

Jay Bolin, Co-Chair

Beverly Leonard

Chris Magryta

Chris Cagle

Don Martin

Palmer McIntyre

Jason Walser

STAFF

Administration

Ryan Olson,

Executive Director

Jordan Robbins,

Development Director

Anna Ewing,

Outreach Associate

Cynthia Peedin,

Piedmont Program Director

Nikki Jones,

Western Program Director

Chehala Andriananjason,

Western Assistant Program

Director

Chehala Andriananjason,

Western Assistant Program

Director

Emily Hitzfelder,

Piedmont Assistant

Program Director

Hannah Latragna,

Administrative Assistant

Field Instructors:

Western

Than Axtell

Carlton Burke

Lee Choubane

David H. Davis

Deborah Davis

Devin Gentry

Jonathan Gray

Megan Krintz

Shannon Lally

Hannah Latragna

Connor Mathias

Miranda Norlin

Leslie Prescott

Julie Thomson

Chelsea Watkins

Field Instructors:

Piedmont

Dawn Anderson

Annie Dillon

Chelsea Flowers

Synthia Folwell

Barb Knight

Paulette O’Hara

Cindy Ramsay

19


THE PATH FORWARD - A LETTER FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

For an organization that exists

almost exclusively in the outdoors

and away from crowds, COVID

still tested Muddy Sneakers, unlike any

challenge we had previously encountered.

It was a moment where we could have

hunkered down, recalibrated, waited for the

storm to pass, and most would not have

questioned that decision. Instead, we did

the exact opposite. In doing so, we charted

an entirely new course for an organization

that has never run short on ambition

to create what we believe will one day

represent a national model for connecting

public school students to nature through

outdoor science learning.

By late summer 2020, we knew the

year ahead would be unprecedented,

and while we held out hope for outdoor

programming, the reality of the pandemic

forced us to pivot. Our team was ready

to get creative and never once lost

focus on the children we’re committed

to serving. We found the necessary

resources, managed our money well, kept

20

our admin team employed (as well as

some seasonal staff), and never stopped

creating. We challenged ourselves to rise

to the moment’s needs while producing

enduring work that could live on beyond

the pandemic. A silver lining of COVID is

that it has arguably been the single greatest

awakening to the power and the possibility

of the outdoor classroom, a space in

which we have tremendous expertise.

There has never been a greater need

for the work of Muddy Sneakers. More

so now than before the pandemic, our

organization stands poised to be a leader

in the field by incorporating exciting new

educational tools that may solve how we

can substantively reach a majority of NC’s

elementary students.

In a year when most were maintaining,

Muddy Sneakers was growing and

innovating. Programming showed its

resilience through continued collaboration

with a high number of pre-pandemic

schools and even saw expansion into two

new counties - Watauga and Forsyth. With


Remote Expeditions as our latest offering,

we reached the incredible milestone

of becoming a state-wide organization

through our first-ever virtual partnerships

with Craven, Carteret, and Onslow counties

in eastern NC. Despite the hurdles, we

continued to lean into our partnership

with NC State University, committed to

measuring our annual impact while refining

our tools. We learned how our work and the

new tools offered gave teachers time back

with their families, relieved some of their

incredible stress, and even saved them

personal money they may have otherwise

spent to pay for independent resources.

The organization also looked inward,

concentrating on the unique opportunity

and the responsibility Muddy Sneakers has

to move the needle around racial equity

and the outdoors. This reflection and

commitment has led to an organizationwide

agreement to embark on a learning

journey that will continue for years to come

as we seek to meet students, educators,

and communities fully.

With an eye towards the future, the

organization took this moment to rewrite

its vision and values, align staff and board

around the work ahead, and commit to

evaluating our structure and financial

sustainability in advance of our fiscal year

2022 strategic plan. In that vision, we

speak to building a NC program that can

be a national model. We will strive to serve

more students across the state but not to

the detriment of more deeply serving our

existing communities. We will prioritize

growth where we are most needed,

wanted, and aligned with, and in these

places, we will look to sustain this work

through community coalitions. We want

to remove barriers to children learning

outdoors - on protected lands, on their

schoolyards, or remotely through backyard

learning, be that rural or urban. We want

to invest in future generations, connected

to the outdoors and remain cognizant

of the holistic impact that time spent

in these spaces has on their health and

development. We want NC to be a national

leader in investing in two of its greatest

assets - nature and children - and we can

only do this work together with you. Join us

in building that model, endeavoring in what

we believe is ‘forever work’ leading to a

better future for North Carolina, a healthier

and more connected populace, and an

education system that commits to and

understands the value of child-centered

outdoor learning.

Ryan Olson

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MUDDY SNEAKERS

We want NC to be a national

leader in investing in two of

its greatest assets - nature and

children - and we can only do

this work together with you.

21


Muddy Sneakers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

For more information about making a gift or getting

involved, please contact us today.

BREVARD:

828-862-5560

P.O. Box 146, Brevard, NC 28712

44 W Jordan Street, Brevard, NC 28712

SALISBURY:

704-209-4009

P.O. Box 2151, Salisbury, NC 28144

2300 W Innes St., Salisbury, NC 28144

@muddysneakers • www.muddysneakers.org • info@muddysneakers.org

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