Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO)
by Lara Guttadauro
Many associate ICO as the acronym for “Inner City Outings,” but in 2014 this national program name was changed to “Inspiring Connections Outdoors.” There were two reasons for the change; first, because of the negative connotations of the words “inner city,” and second, because “inner city” did not represent the geographic areas the program serves, which also include rural and suburban neighborhoods.
Started in 1971, ICO is a community outreach program of the Sierra Club, with over 40 groups nationwide. The volunteer leaders, trained in recreational, outdoor and safety skills as well as environmental education provide outdoor adventures for children who wouldn’t otherwise have them – including low-income youth of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
To introduce children to the outdoors, ICO volunteers work with community agencies that want to provide an outings program for their members. The Cincinnati ICO is currently working with Dater Montessori, Newport Primary and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. ICO furnishes the equipment needed: daypacks, water bottles, food, cooking gear, sleeping bags, and first aid kits. The outings are free of charge.
Our group’s outings are primarily day outings, many are to various Hamilton County Parks, including paddle boating, bicycling, hiking, etc. Many include some type of talk on various outdoor areas of interest, such as raptors, orienteering, animal tracking, farming, etc. Once a year we tent camp overnight, and another time “camp” in cabins. Regarding recent outings, our January outing was our annual snow-tubing outing to Perfect North Slopes. Our December outing was ice-skating on Fountain Square. Another recent outing was a visit to an apple orchard in the Dayton Ohio area.
Through ICO, participants are introduced to the outdoors, the Sierra Club and its values. ICO participants discover the beauty of the wild lands we treasure, and how to enjoy these areas without harming them. They develop interpersonal skills and self-esteem through active involvement with nature. Fostering teamwork and cooperation are also major aspects of the ICO experience. And participants learn outdoor skills that enable them to face challenges outside their home environments.
Our March outing is on Saturday the 14th. This outing is unusual in that it is an evening outing; it will be at LaBoiteaux Woods, a Cincinnati park in College Hill. The focus will be a night hike to learn about nocturnal animals. The April outing is on Saturday the 25th; we will hike through Mt. Airy Forest and take water samples to understand water quality and water pollution. We are opening these outings to families of Sierra Club members; members may bring their children / grandchildren. There is more information on these outings in the Outings section of this newsletter.
Get involved! We need volunteers; while helping with the kids, volunteers have a lot of fun and learn a lot too.
For more information on how you can support or participate, contact:
Bobbie Shawhan 513-808-5564(H), 812-204-7921(C) or
Larry Benken 513- 662-4545 (H) or 513-662-3355 (W).