Priority Program: Making camping in the Preserves accessible and meaningful for all


 On a moonlit night in late June, Damara Saddler and her four kids camped under the stars at Camp Sullivan. It was their first overnight, outdoor camping experience. Saddler said she wanted “to see how it is to sleep outdoors.” Her two young daughters, especially, were all too happy to try a night in a tent.
     Wild Indigo Nature Explorations, a group that organizes free outdoor field trips and activities in southeast Cook County, facilitated the family’s introduction to camping. Wild Indigo’s outreach fellows run the overnight camping excursions. The fellows must first participate in the Forest Preserves’ Camping Leadership Immersion Course (CLIC), which certifies and trains them to lead the campouts. The Forest Preserve Foundation provides financial support for CLIC.
     This year the Foundation granted $25,000 to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County for family camperships, or scholarships for camping. The support ensures that no family is prevented from experiencing camping because of financial challenges. The program provides reduced rates, camp gear rental, meals, and guided outdoor activities.