Grantee Spotlight

 

 

Wildwood Outdoor Education Center is honored to share in the legacy of Marjorie Powell Allen and to continue her work improving the lives of Kansas City’s young citizens through outdoor education. With the support of the SkillBuilders Fund, we will continue our drive toward profitability and programming excellence in 2021.

Wildwood immerses youth in learning in an idyllic outdoor setting for summer overnight camps and school year field trip programs. The Wildwood property, located on 399th Street, just south of Louisburg, KS, was originally owned and operated by Bob Allen and Marjorie Powell Allen who called the camp Allendale-by-Jingo. Marjorie taught horseback riding, diving, and tennis to the children of many local civic and business leaders. Bob started an Outdoor School to teach academics to elementary classes in spring and fall.

In 1980, Marjorie Powell Allen, Beth Smith, Jeanne Bates from the Hall Family Foundation, and Kansas City school district personnel put together the plan to create Wildwood Outdoor Education Center. The Powell family donated the Allendale property to the new non-profit, and the Hall Family Foundation provided initial funding via a five-year decreasing grant.

Today, Wildwood has more than 150,000 alumni, and we are serving our second generation of Kansas Citians. Many of the ideas that started Wildwood—that kids grow better outside—that children need a break from technology—that summer learning can change kids’ lives—remain deeply embedded in our values and our program design. Wildwood uses nature as the classroom. For many of Kansas City’s low-income youth, camp is a rare opportunity to learn and play outdoors, make new friends, and participate in the traditions of camping.

Wildwood strives to equip low-income youth with academic and social skills that they can carry with them throughout their lives. Innovative, hands-on experiences bring academic lessons to life, and cabin living with peers provides a backdrop for social and emotional growth. Wildwood camp transforms participant attitudes about exploration, learning and nature; and they build social and emotional skills like teamwork, independence, and friend-making. Generous scholarships and free transportation ensure access for families of all income levels.

In 2020, Wildwood made the difficult decision to cancel camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we were unable to see campers in person, the Wildwood team focused on ways to bring camp and its lessons to campers. We delivered 200 camp activity boxes, 1,000 friendship bracelet kits, and 50 winter activity boxes to children across the Kansas City metro. Finally, the Wildwood staff redesigned programming for 2021 to meet the emerging needs of campers while maintaining industry-leading safety and learning standards.

Over the next year, with generous support from SkillBuilders Fund, Wildwood will run overnight camp at half capacity (300 participants) to ensure camper health and safety, launch a day-camp program in the Kansas City area, and provide deeper emphasis on social and emotional learning for our campers. We will also introduce Wildwood Weekends for our 10-13 year-old campers. This program will provide a stepping stone to teen Leadership Camp and employment as a Wildwood counselor. Lastly, we will continue to build the Wildwood brand, increase our community partnerships, and grow public support for our mission.

To learn more about Wildwood, visit their website.