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Kids in need explore the outdoors with LOOP NOLA

The group focuses on kids who don't have families who grew up in the outdoors.

NEW ORLEANS — Like many young people these days, Skylar Walcott doesn't spend a lot of time outdoors.

"I'm really like an inside person...don't go nowhere," he says.

But one Saturday morning, the 18-year-old tried something different.

He took part in a challenge course in City Park.

Ingrid Helgeson is a Child Welfare Specialist with state of Louisiana, and she invited Skylar and a few other teens in the state's extended foster care program to take part in the event.

"They don't get out to do things. Half of them are in group homes or little apartments by themselves, and they don't get the opportunity to do things like this," Helgeson says. 

The non-profit LOOP NOLA is all about getting young people like Skylar outdoors.

"Someone who has had to deal with adversity...doing something like a ropes course and just being outdoors. It's that ease of, 'OK, this is safe space,' and having the staff of LOOP NOLA saying you can do this. A lot of the kids don't have that kind of positive reinforcement," says John Skavarka.

Skavarka is the Executive Director of LOOP NOLA.

Skavarka says that kids like Skylar, who's dealing with family problems, really benefit from outdoor activities.

The group focuses on kids who don't have families who grew up in the outdoors.

"The more affluent families have more access and feel welcome in these outdoor spaces. They've grown up doing those things. That's why we want to prioritize low-income families so they also feel like City Park, these state parks, are for them," says Skavarka.

The program partners with schools for field trips, after-school programming and summer internships.

Each year, more than 3,000 kids enjoy outdoor adventures with the group.

"So we're building social skills, academic skills, and environmental stewardship skills thorugh the outdoors," says Skavarka.

Skavarka doesn't expect everyone to become a mountain climber, but he does believe that everyone can benefit from being outdoors. He's on a mission to make sure everyone feels comfortable in these spaces. 

For more information from LOOP, click here 

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