Wilderness Adventures-Connecting Children to Nature

by Paralee Dawson Hayward
(Murphy, North Carolina)

I have always had a dream of working with children. My third child was born with Downs Syndrome and I only had him in my life for four months. For years I could not find where I fit, in this dream, but it was always nagging at me to do something.

I am an avid Appalachian Trail hiker and love to share this love of the outdoors with others. While hiking alone in Virginia this year I had a vision. It just caught me by such surprise that I stopped dead in my tracks and started looking for something to write with. The ideas started rolling. I stopped a hiker heading in the other direction to see if I could steal a small piece of paper and a pen so I could continue to jot down my ideas (at my age things don't stick around long in this mind of mine). No luck so I had to count on my memory.

I thought if no one will hike with me why not take the outdoors to our children and I can hike with them and share this love of the outdoors with them and at the same time giving children of all ages a more hands-on experience of nature with a range of activities from hiking, day walks, bird watching, plant identifications, outdoor safety, farm visits, and so much more.

At times I feel overwhelmed with all this information I am gathering, but I keep getting direction and encouragement from all directions, I just know this has to happen and my dream will someday be a reality. I am a determined person and I usually don't quit until its time to quit, so watch out, here I come.

As I began to research my dream of Wilderness Adventures, I was amazed to find so many organizations that have the same goal to reach our children. I think if we can partner up with some of them we will be successful in reaching our children. I would love to partner with USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council to re-connect families and kids with nature as a start. On a local level why not partner with our faith-based organizations, schools, community councils, daycares, libraries, outdoor stores, etc.

Julia Mitchell, Director of Partnership Programs, with the American Recreation Coalition has given me permission to utilize their promotional materials for our events. Why recreate the wheel if we have materials to utilize. We are also on the mailing list to participate in the National Get Outdoors Day next June on a local level. I can't wait. What a great opportunity this will be.

As you can see I am way in over my head. I need help! We're not talking help with just the walks but maybe with some of the planning, phone calls, emails, awards, brainstorming for new ideas, or just helping with the event planning.
Seniors with some time on their hands, parents, teachers, local small business, the list goes on and on.

I guess by now you can see how compassionate I am about Wilderness Adventures.

I will leave you with one final thought. I am a true believer of following your dreams. I have another dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, but I will share that at another time.

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

Always follow your dreams!

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Jul 10, 2011
I know your dream will become a reality
by: John Dilbeck


I know this dream will become real. There is such a need for our children and grandchildren to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty and all that is part of getting out and experiencing the outdoors.

Keep spreading the word. People will find you and help make this real.


Jul 10, 2011
A wonderful dream and vision
by: Cheryl Paton

Paralee, bringing nature to children is such a wonderful idea. And I'm sure you'll bring so much more once you've hiked the Appalachian trail.

Jul 11, 2011
Dream Maker
by: Treasa

You are my hero! I love to read about people who have attempted to follow their dreams. Yours is such an important one I just know it will be a success. Best of luck and I am going to check your website out. I would love to help any way I can.

Jul 19, 2011
Keep pushing on
by: Lorelei

I know you will get there. You are one of the most determined people I know. When I am down in NC next I would be happy to help you with an event.

Jul 25, 2011
Don't give up the dream!
by: Hiker Girl

Thanks for all the support.
Let's dare to think some bold, new thoughts, trust life a little more, unlearn some things that we've been taught and look for innovative ways to share nature with our children. Keep the ideas coming. See you out there. Paralee

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