We at the Y know that spending time outdoors has a host of benefits for kids — it improves their health, inspires creativity, improves performance in school and more. But Secretary Zinke and the Department of the Interior are expected to announce the end of the Every Kid in a Park--a successful, low-cost program that has helped millions of fourth graders gain free access to national parks, boosting both kids' health and local economies.
At a time when kids are spending more and more time with screens and less with nature, cutting this program would be a huge loss for millions of kids across the country. As a leading provider of camps for kids, the Y knows this program provides a unique opportunity for children to learn and thrive.
Before he makes this announcement, please urge Secretary Ryan Zinke to preserve the Every Kid in a Park program.
Dear Secretary Zinke,
Spending time outdoors has a host of benefits for kids - it improves their health, increases physical activity, inspires creativity, helps them perform better in school and fosters an appreciation for our natural resources and the world around them. For this reason, we the undersigned members, staff, volunteers and supporters of the YMCA, urge you to preserve and expand the Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) program.
This public-private partnership supports opportunities for fourth graders and their families to connect with our nation's parks and public lands. EKIP is a proven, cost-effective and common-sense solution to improve our children's health, support long-term economic investment, and introduce a new generation to the beauty and wonder of America's public lands, waters, shores and history.
As you know, over two million fourth graders downloaded the Every Kid in a Park pass in the program's first year, and nearly $5 million in private funding was leveraged to support transportation costs for children from Title I schools across America during the program's first two years. The resounding support of this program speaks for itself. In addition, Congress has introduced the bipartisan Every Kid Outdoors Act (S.1522/H.R.3186), which would codify this successful program into law.
Every year, YMCAs serve 1.4 million youth and adults at day, resident and specialty camps, and employ 61,000 college-aged young adults as summer resident camp leaders. As the Y looks to inspire the next generation of leaders, it's important that we provide them opportunities like EKIP to learn, grow and thrive. By helping school-age children understand the historic, cultural and recreational value of our public lands, we can improve knowledge, enhance health and well-being and help build the next generation of stewards of these lands.
We hope that you will prioritize and expand the EKIP program, ensuring that children have an opportunity to visit our parks and public lands for years to come.