Its been a while since that epic party back in April at Metropolitan that helped kick off this incredible year. It is fun to look back at what was front of mind at that party and the stories that we told. Anywho, here are the inspired open speeches that were given in tandem by OOFD Executive Director/Co-Founder - Glenn Schneider and the Board President and Adult Program Director- Breanna Bertacchi. Photos by Emily Ling
GLENN: Welcome to Out Our Front Door’s Hootenanny Vol.3! My name is Glenn, and I am the co-founder and Executive Director of OOFD. I’m so freaking pumped to be here, hanging with you all. Celebrating with you. This day is such a testament to this community and really to each person in this room and the support and passion y’all have for our mission.
The whole idea behind OOFD this is that we believe in adventure and that through adventure we come to better understand ourselves as well as our world. Through this growth and shared experience, we learn to connect to each other and our natural habitats in a more meaningful way.
5 Year Plan
In 2021, we began a 5 year plan with the main goal to make OOFD sustainable as an organization. There were many aspects of that plan, but the two main bits were: Number 1: to get more people out bike camping. And number 2: scale up so we can afford a full-time executive director. We are well on our way to reaching them by 2025.
A big step in that process was to slowly scale in the ED position, and I started 10 hours a week last year, and 20 hours a week this year with the goal to increase to full time by 2025. Which is something that I can’t even call a dream come true because being paid to help run an educational bike camping nonprofit in the city I love so dearly is so far outside of my wildest dreams. Not only is it an honor to help lead this org, but it is one of the most humbling endeavors I have ever undertaken.
Humbling, Because at OOFD, one of our core values is volunteerism. We were 100% volunteer run for our first 6 years and now we are about 80% volunteer run. And we always will be hugely run by volunteers. These volunteers truly create the atmosphere of OOFD.
Our volunteers help us keep our rides free or at low price points which we think is so important.
They are the folks that lead our riders on overnight bike camping trips.
They are the folks that take their experience, listen to the experiences of others, and come up with ways to improve OOFD.
And they are the folks that continually step up into new and challenging roles to lead OOFD towards being the best org we can be.
And as a volunteer as well as its only paid employee, I am forever humbled and grateful for the amazing folks we continue to bring into the org. We know we are doing something right when folks of this caliber, of this attitude want to become a part of the org. And I have endless stories I could tell. Last year at the Hootenanny, I talked about Shawn who started as a participant, became a guide, and then was leaving a few weeks later to ride his bike around the world. Quick update on Shawn, he left Chicago with us last April on our Shabonna ride and he is still out there riding around the world. Last I checked, Turkey or Antartica?
And this year, it seems perfect to focus on someone who exudes the volunteer spirit to the next level. Everything they work on at OOFD simply gets better, and it happens with a genuine and considerate ear and the spirit of inclusion.
They met OOFD on the huge 100 person Passage to the Rock ride to Starved Rock in 2018,
and came on as a guide and part of the Youth Program in 2019.
They then became the first non-founder Adult Program Director in 2020. They have led small rides, big rides and everything in between.
They meet with the guide groups each month and help them prepare for their upcoming overnighter.
And just this winter, they came on as the first non-founder President of the Board, which they have been running that role with the grace and professionalism that they have brought to every role at OOFD.
Breanna, for real, you are a shining example of volunteerism and so genuinely exude the OOFD spirit. All of us are so lucky to have you as a leader and fellow volunteer.
A bit of Breanna's OOFD Story
Breanna: It’s such a wild ride to look back at the last 5 years and all the different types of adventures I’ve shared with folks. I had no idea I was gonna finish the Starved Rock ride , that was not the plan I was only supposed to bike halfway out there and then swap out at Joliet. I just kind of felt this momentum and got sucked in and the folks in my immediate group were so supportive and encouraging (they were all strangers), and they helped me in ways I didn’t expect as a new rider. But I came back the next year as a volunteer and learned that’s just what happens, that's just the norm – that’s just how folks in this space naturally welcomed riders. What I experienced on that first ride is something I want everyone to experience; that curiosity, the wonder, the discovery of new places, the accomplishment to return back home safe at the end of the weekend (?!) , selfishly I get something out of watching other folks experience all these things for the first time too – that dynamic is incredibly rewarding. And I sense that from all our volunteers – that helping to build an adventure for the next person or the next generation gives our work so much meaning.
The 2022 Adaptive Youth Program
Breanna: One of the areas of our work that I feel most represents this is in our programming with Chicago’s youth to inspire them in all these same ways; specifically in families with adaptive needs. Y’all are going to hear from the Adaptive Program Director a lil later – Bradley is here and showcasing one of the bikes in our fleet if you haven’t met him already. I’ll let him tell the specifics , but it was in that setting last summer that I witnessed just how much potential we have to build a safe place to explore for our kids. We’ve had the Youth Program function in one capacity or another since almost the birth of OOFD, but Bradley has challenged us in recent years to start questioning how to integrate riders with adaptive needs into our events. In response, last summer we ran a weeklong camp curriculum in partnership with the Emily Oaks Nature Center of Skokie. This involved a weeklong daytime camp curriculum that culminated in an overnight stay at a local campground.
The focus of this program was to offer tandem riding options to kids with adaptive needs & to safely offer this exploration in a setting away from parents or caregivers, while enmeshed with ‘typically developing’ teens. The daytime sessions were a blast in & of themselves, they included snagging an author of a children's book to come and speak (?!), ice cream trips, nature hikes, mechanics classes, all types of summer fun. The overnight portion included a significant bike ride (with gear!) from the Nature Center to Dan Beard campground. We had a handful of Skokie kids register for the camp, and I wanna take a minute to spotlight one youth in particular. I met Eli on these events, and he’s got a developmental disorder that presents a challenge to solo-bicycling. To pull a quote from Eli’s mother ; she says “ this really opened our eyes to the possibility that bike riding for Eli could be so much more than just rides around our neighborhood,” and to share what I witnessed, there were many times we were going up small inclines on the route and Eli was just hammering away at the pedals. So much that his co-rider Joseph could just hang out and steer.
But it was Eli’s first night away from his family home. And that’s , that’s monumental isn’t it? We all still remember some of our first overnights away from our parents; summer-camps, sleepovers, the first time we proved to ourselves just how far we can ride our bikes away from home. OOFD got to be a part of that milestone for Eli and his family. We watched Eli help change a flat for one of the other youth in the program. OOFD got to be a part of that magic, and I’m personally honored to be a part of an organization that helps to sculpt these experiences with families ; I know the rest of our volunteers feel the same.
OOFD folks are continually learning about our region and how to make it accessible to youth by bike. Immersive education like what we offer can be such a unique experience to city kids ; and every event is possible only because other folks love this work enough to donate their time and attention. We’re teaching so much more than just routes and navigation; it’s real-time problem solving, some mechanics work, group dynamics, natural and historical info on our region, it’s truly a lil bit of everything. This work in the adaptive setting is ongoing – in this way we’re keeping our mission & values alive and growing. I think Eli’s story is a telltale sign that we’re on the right path to make a significant impact in Chicago’s youth. I think we’re already making a difference in folks’ lives. And that’s an important reason for why I’ve been inspired to stick around these last 5 years I believe the work we’re doing can be life changing.
Volunteer Development and Closing
GLENN: And as OOFD continues to grow, our focus will be on growing and developing our volunteers. That is a big role of the paid position that I am taking on - to support and develop our these amazing folks. So yes, the funds you donate today through the direct ask later or through the raffle tickets or simply by being here, those funds are going to our programs, to help get more folks out on bike adventures. Those funds are also going to help us reach our goal of having a full-time Executive Director in the next 2.5 years. And it very much is going towards training, developing, and appreciating our volunteers. Because, at the end of the day, OOFD doesn’t exist without our volunteers, and those volunteers are really the purest form of our mission in action.
Raise your hand if you have led an OOFD ride before? Now raise your hand if you have been on an OOFD ride before. Look around. Go talk to those folks. Go find any OOFD volunteer and ask them why they believe in adventure and why they believe in OOFD. Heck even consider getting involved and joining our crew of volunteers. And if you don’t already, you’ll believe in adventure too. It's inspiring stuff.
Before I leave, I’ll hit you with a few house keeping items: Kids activities, Raffle tickets, Merch, Food, Timeline
The directors of the WTWTG and Adaptive Program will be up in about an hour to talk briefly about their programs, and we’ll pull some raffle tickets and will do a direct ask for anyone that wants to donate a bit more. Then around 830, we’ll close out with the final raffle tickets and silent auction winner. The event ends at 9.
And with that, I’ll leave you with a huge, heaping pile of gratitude. Gratitude to Metropolitan who has been so amazing and generous to work with while planning this. Gratitude to DJ Lawrence for spinning for us, and to the staff at Metropolitan. Be sure to tip those oh so kind bartenders.
One of the best things of being a part of a non-profit is it is a constant exercise in staying tuned to gratitude. As a part of OOFD, you can’t help but feel that gratitude for those you get to meet, for the volunteer hours put in, for the kind donations, and the just straight up support from our community. Which is you all. So I give a major cheers to you all.
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"To immerse , educate, preserve & advance the history, culture, trails and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area"