Empowering Youth Through Programming

Kids with CanoeYouth and Family Center of McHenry County approached McHenry County Conservation Foundation this summer with a funding request to cover the cost of transporting people to a District-hosted program in Cary. A nonprofit organization, Youth and Family Center’s mission is to ensure empowerment and growth for youth and families by partnering with our community to provide direct services and linkage to individuals in McHenry County. One of the ways they achieve their mission is by offering year-round programming aimed to equip, empower, and encourage youth to achieve positive growth and development, improve expectations and capabilities for future success, and avoid risk-taking behaviors. As with most nonprofits, their success depends on community collaboration and support. When they reached out to the foundation, the Board of Directors was happy to step up.

With the cost of bus rental covered, forty children and adults from Youth and Family Center braved the 110-degree heat to make it out to The Hollows on July 1 for a family-oriented canoeing and fishing program on Lake Atwood. The fish coming out of the pond were mostly small blue gills and the metal canoes were hot to the touch until they were doused in water, but that did not make for any less of an enjoyable experience. For some of the kids, this was their first time in a boat. Others were back for a second year, having enjoyed the experience so much in years previous. Afterwards, several kids remarked that this was the best day of their lives.

For more than eight years, the District has hosted numerous recreational and educational programs for Youth and Family Center, both on District sites and in the classroom. These programs aim to build an appreciation of our natural world and bridge the gap between conservation science and the local communities who may not have much exposure to environmental education programs. By fostering a sense of appreciation and understanding of the natural environment early on, we hope to nurture a conservation ethic that follows them into adulthood and perhaps inspires the next generation of conservation leaders.

Gifts to the Foundation help bridge the gap between public funding and the cost associated with not only maintaining public lands, but also providing accessible, quality education and recreation programs to McHenry County residents.