The Red River Gorge area is among the most beautiful, unique and ecologically diverse regions anywhere in the United States, with many national designations for its protection. Unfortunately the riches of the land are not reflected in resources for local residents, many of whom struggle with poverty, ill health, and limited educational opportunities or funding. These inequalities can be particularly hard on children and are exacerbated by disturbing national trends.

Diagnoses of anxiety and attention problems are increasing as children experience enormous pressure to perform academically and have less and less time to call their own. Education budgets are slashed, funding for the arts and physical education programs are lost, and even recess time is eliminated as school systems increasingly focus on preparing students for annual tests. Children spend more time than ever indoors, replacing the natural world with a virtual one, and often have limited access to healthy foods. Not surprisingly, almost a third of children in the U.S. are overweight, and type 2 diabetes, once unheard of in adolescents, is now rivaling type 1 in new diagnoses. These problems are hitting low-income areas especially hard as American children face a true mental and physical health crisis.

Fortunately a growing body of research is demonstrating how time in nature can play a vital role in redressing these difficulties. Programs such as Red Oaks offer direct benefits to physical and mental wellbeing as children become more active, learn to use and trust their bodies, reduce stress, improve school performance, cooperate and collaborate with peers, and build a confidence in their own abilities that they will take with them as they grow. We offer positive role models and mentors, as well as stewardship opportunities for youth to engage in their communities. Red Oaks is committed to being a positive force for leadership and programming, giving everyone the best tools available to become health and happy individuals.