Part 1 of 3: Environmental Traveling Companions, An All-Inclusive Organization

Since announcing winners in early 2014, our first 25 KEEN Effect grantees have been busy inspiring responsible outdoor participation in their communities around the world.  Environmental Traveling Companions out of San Francisco, CA was a $10,000 grantee and one that we are especially proud to be working with.  Read on to learn more about what inspires them to give back.

Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) makes the joy and challenge of outdoor adventures accessible to people with disabilities and disadvantaged youth, inspiring self-confidence, connection to nature, and stewardship of the environment. In 1972, ETC was founded by three commercial raft guides who began offering low-cost whitewater rafting trips to disadvantaged youth and individuals with disabilities.  ETC was the first organization to pioneer whitewater rafting and sea kayaking for people with disabilities.

Fast forward 40 years, and ETC serves as a national model for accessible outdoor adventure programs and environmental education programs.  The organization has provided outdoor adventures to more than 65,000 individuals with special needs and has trained a community of over 1,000 volunteer outdoor guides. ETC’s focuses on what participants CAN do instead of what they cannot, and on their abilities versus their disabilities.  It is life affirming, it is impactful.  When participants are in the wilderness, away from the constraints of wheelchairs, canes, etc, they discover hidden strengths and a new appreciation for exploring the outdoors!

At KEEN, we are thrilled that the KEEN Effect has been able to provide over 150 full scholarships for people with disabilities to participate in whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, and cross country ski programs.  These scholarships enable people to experience the outdoors who would not be able to do so on their own.  The hands-on adventures are designed to increase self-confidence, generate connection to the natural world, build community, and grow strong leaders.

You can’t save what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t know.  Our hearts full knowing that ETC’s programs ensure people with disabilities have the means to get to know, love, and be inspired by nature.  Nature is a powerful place!