GOCO’s Generation Wild campaign encourages kids to get outside ~ The Denver Post


It’s a common lament: Kids today are over-scheduled, over-screened and over-protected. Only older folk can share tales of spending entire days playing outside — not on a team or in a game, but just playing.

“Our mom would throw us out the door in the morning and turn us loose all day and say ‘I don’t want to see you back in this house until you hear the whistle for dinner,’” said Chris Castilian, the boss of Great Outdoors Colorado. “You don’t see that anymore.”

GOCO is taking a step beyond simply deploring the lack of outdoor free time for kids and taking action. On Monday, the lottery-funded group unveils its new Generation Wild effort. With seven 15-second snippets on TV and an aggressive social media and print campaign spread across the state, the group hopes to get kids outside and grow the next generation of advocates for open spaces and outdoor recreation.

“Our goal is to change an entire generation,” Castilian said. “It’s a movement, literally and philosophically.”

The multi-year Generation Wild campaign, which involves a lengthy list of partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, People for Bikes, REI and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, revolves around “100 Things To Do Before You’re 12.”

The list isn’t labor intensive, with activities like climbing a tree, rolling down a hill, making a mud pie, stomping through a puddle and flying a kite. The list includes some step-up adventures as well, like riding a horse and climbing a fourteener. But the idea is that getting outside begins in the backyard.

The dual-language “100 Things” list will be available in all 261 state libraries across the state and at more than 40 Boys and Girls Clubs of Colorado,and at Colorado State Parks and Denver recreation centers.

The campaign dovetails with GOCO’s $25 million Inspire Initiative, which distributes grants to communities across the state in an effort to connect kids with wild spaces. The Inspire program’s first six communities secured $13.5 million to develop trails, recreation centers and education programs designed to foster outdoor appreciation in under-served communities like Leadville, Lamar, the San Luis Valley and Commerce City.

Connie Rule, the executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Colorado, likes the simplicity of Generation Wild.

“One of our priorities for young people is that they live a healthy lifestyle and being connected to the outdoors is essential to their health,” Rule said. “We try really hard to keep it general and simple. We want our activities to be fast and mobile and tend to be located in communities that are under-resourced and underserved. GOCO has a great strategy for reaching kids in those communities.”