Welcome to the (almost) off-season
Our 6th season is almost in the books. We got just under 250 folks out bike camping this year across our Adult, Family, Youth, and Adaptive Programs. The most we have had ever in a year!
But we certainly aren't done riding for the year with the famously fun December bike "cabinning" ride to Camp Reinberg happening in a couple weekends. Plus, those behind the scenes making OOFD as cool as it is know that there really is no "off-season." That's because we are always doing that background work to make our rides and org in general better than ever. We're already booking sites for 2023!
We wrapped up the annual weekend long board of directors retreat in early November where most of us 8 board members huddled together in a house in Miller Beach, IN and hashed out big ideas over meals, beer, coffee, bon fires, and walks along the shores of our beautiful lake. We were led by our new President, Breanna, through some super fun, deep, challenging, and creative discussions about ideas for next year. And we are already hard at work building those ideas into reality! So look out! Goodness, I already can't wait for next year's rides which will even include a huge ride to Camp Shabonna, a free weekday overnighter for our essential bike shop workers, not to mention a reignited Youth Program and a stellar line up of Family Rides.
So if you love to see us growing into a more and more sustainable non-profit that believes in welcoming everyone to adventure, consider supporting us by donating (tis the season. and we are an official 501c3 non-profit). Or you can consider joining our crew of volunteers or even simply helping spread the word to those in your life that are into bikes and adventures and exploring their home.
Photo cred above: Emily Ling
The Real Deal - The Volunteers
This organization will always be mainly volunteer run. That is a major aspect of our vision and values. Its the "V" in our core WAVE values (Welcome, Adventure, Volunteer, Educate). Though as we grow, our biggest aim is to keep OOFD going as a sustainable org. We have set the goals to grow our ridership and have a full-time, paid executive director by 2025. Glenn came on as the 10 hour a week paid Executive Director in 2021. After the successful 2022 season, we are keeping pace with our goals, and thus, are able to boost him up to be a 20 hour a week schedule in the coming year!
And while that ED growth is a huge win for the org, we couldn’t even begin to imagine this growth without our volunteer guides who range from brand-new fresh to having a handful of years under their belts as guides. These folks are OOFD. They exude a pure love of adventure and a genuine desire to get folks outside on bikes. And we want to publicly express our gratitude and highlight their stunningness.
In years past, we have done a 3 star volunteers. That is increasingly more difficult as so many volunteers have continued to step into major roles with the org such as roles on the board, program directorships, leading a multitude of rides, volunteering across a variety of programs, and the list goes on and on.
So to try and make a nearly impossible task a little more feasible, this year we are going to do a special shoutout to our 3 Star New Volunteers of 2022. Even this was super hard to narrow down to just three.
Rachel Shultz - A truly giving spirit, she exudes all the OOFD values, especially volunteering. In her first year as a guide, she has stepped in huge in so many ways, from guiding the most Adult Rides this year (4) as well as 2 Family overnights. She also was a critical voice in our Adaptive Sports Abuse Prevention policy making discussion and the Hootenanny, and so much more. Goodness were we lucky to have had Rachel join the team this year! She'll even be lead guiding Decemberg! Check out this lovely blog she wrote about her first year as an OOFD guide here.
Hope Williams - A shining example of a welcoming and inclusive spirit, Hope attended the ASAP training and provided brilliant insight into the long and challenging discussions around our Adaptive Sports Abuse Prevention policy. They also have been a part of the beautiful community of families that have returned year after year for the Family Blackwell overnight, this year as a guide on the ride.
Will Haley - If you know Will, you know he is full of nothing but good, positive, and helpful vibes. He came on strong this year guiding for the first time on our big 5 day SWMI ride, helping to put some of the script together and just providing a selfless and giving spirit the entire time. He went on to guide the Waterways to the West ride as well as helped at the Hootenanny.
Some honorable mentions are no doubt Serena Larkin who stepped in huge a few times on adult overnights including driving a Uhaul truck for the MKE ride. Also, Chris Hamilton who road for the first time with OOFD in April and by the end of this year will have guided 4 overnights.
Shout out to some other big volunteer milestones:
The lead guides: Norah (Shabonna), Jordan (MKE), Kat (big Battle to the Dunes), Maggie (Summer Reinberg), Ashley Lyons (Blackwell), Glenn (big SWMI), Norah and Breanna (Confluence), Kat (Waterways), Maggie (big Valhalla), Jordan (Migrations), Anson (Sun Harvest), Bradley (Family Bike Camping in the City), Joseph (Family Shabonna), Ben/Joseph (Family Blackwell), Bradley (Youth Dan Beard), Matt Weiss (WTWTG Burnham and Major Taylor)
And the support guides: Shabonna - Glenn, Zach Schroeder, Shawn, Matt Mersch. MKE - Maggie, Miles, Serena, Rachel. Battle - Anson, Ashley L., Jordan E, Ashley H, Matthew S, Matt W, Matt Mersch, Christopher. Summer Reinberg - Breanna, Anson. Blackwell - Jerod, Lauren, Serena. SWMI - Anson, Kat, Breanna, Will, Norah, Bradley. Confluence - Megan, Rachel, Eduardo. Waterways - Lauren, Chris H, Rachel, Will H. Valhalla - Kat, Rachel Shultz, Lauren, Ashley H. Migrations - Chris H, Gina. Sun Harvest - Glenn, Breanna, Chris H, Colin, Alex, Jose, Gina, Chris H. Family Bike Camping in the City - Breanna, Joseph, Zach Schroeder, Rachel Shultz. Family Shabonna - Bradley, Sarah A, Rachel Shultz. Family Blackwell - Breanna, Ben, Hope. Youth Program at Emily Oaks - Bradley, Jen, Joseph, Glenn, Breanna, Ashley H. Adaptive Day Ride - Bradley, Lauren, Sarah T, Joseph, Paolo Urizar. WTWTG - Matt Weiss, Glenn, Anson, and so many more.
You see that list!? If you have been around OOFD before, you'll know that that is a list of just incredible humans. And when OOFD can draw in folks like them into the org, that is the ultimate sign that we are on the right track and doing something right! So much love for all of y'all listed above and everyone else that I may have missed but that has shown up for OOFD on so many levels this year. You are why we exist.
Decemberg Overnight - Dec. 10-11
You know you can't wait til April to do another overnight. So join this rad crew and rock that winter bike riding life. Learn about the history and beginnings of the Forest Preserves, the ecology of the area, and what it takes to preserve it. Ride through time and discover how land use evolved from the natural to the industrial to the recreational.
Gain a new appreciation for winter riding and celebrate a day in the cold outdoors. We will help you appreciate the warmth of the fire and will sleep in heated forest preserve cabins. So come check out Reinberg, Cook County Forest Preserve's first acquisition. Includes hot dinner, steamy oatmeal breakfast, and a big ol' campfire with the standard campfire snacks and beverages.
We'll have Rachel Shultz as our fearless lead guide who first rode with OOFD on this ride last year (one of the windiest OOFD rides to date)! She'll be joined by fellow guides, Glenn, Chris Hamilton, and Ashley Huerta. Promised to be a great time. More deets and tickets ($105) available here.
Giving Tuesday (and a free mug)
Do you hear optimism in our tone? I’d imagine you do. We are flying high off of a good year. And there is still so much work to be done. So much potential untapped!
So as you are shifting through the piles of Giving Tuesday emails you have stacking up in your inbox and you decide you want to give some of your donatable dollars to supporting getting others out into nature onto inclusive bike adventures, DONATE HERE.
For everyone that donates $75
What You Can Do Now
If you want to connect this winter and into the spring, please do. And for right now:
Parting Nug - The Adaptive Program 2022
OOFD no doubt believes that everyone deserves a life filled with adventure, exploration, and immersion into our natural world. That includes people with disabilities. We are excited to have started a first of it’s kind Adaptive Bike Camping program for people with disabilities in 2021 and continued it in 2022 with a really unique program in partnership with Emily Oaks Nature Center with help from a Skokie Community Foundation grant. It was a week long summer camp filled with bike rides, nature education, and culminated in an overnight bike camping trip to Camp Dan Beard.
One of our big success stories from this Summer's adaptive program is a boy named Eli. He has a rare genetic disorder which makes riding on his own not quite possible. He absolutely LOVED biking, and after the program his family bought a great used Hase Pino. The family joined us for part of the overnight ride, and they are planning to come on at least one of our family rides in 2023.
Eli's mother Becky wrote us afterwards: "Youth Unbound Camp was the highlight of Eli's summer. He was so excited to be out riding bikes and hanging out at the nature center with his friends each day. This really opened our eyes to the possibility that bike riding for Eli could be so much more than just rides around our neighborhood. We are looking forward to growing this new hobby and will hopefully be going on a family bike camping event soon. We are so grateful Eli had the opportunity to participate in this camp and campout. "
Above is a photo of Eli riding with OOFD guide Joseph during the program. Sometimes Joseph would lift his feet off the pedals, and Eli would keep the whole rig chugging along at 12 mph or more!
We also were able to provide bikes to other youth that completed the program thanks to Working Bikes as well as new OOFD guide Colin Spector.
The Adaptive Program was able to also integrate into our Family Program in 2022 which was a major step towards radical inclusivity which we always are striving for as an org.
Well, as always, I could go on and on, but this thing is already a short novel, so I'll cut it here. Cheers to a great 2022 and an even better 2023 ride season ahead. Happy holidays to y'all and here's to keeping the adventures rolling.
Glenn and all of the OOFD pals
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"To immerse , educate, preserve & advance the history, culture, trails and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area"