Please Note: The Outdoor Research We Can Grant formally retired in 2020. Thank you to all who applied to and supported this program, we are happy to see the contributions live beyond its year. Learn about the grant and its previous winners below.
It’s pretty simple math that makes for the troubling lack of diversity in climbing, explains Marc Bourguignon. He works, along with Julie Gardner, to help bridge the gap between indoor and outdoor climbing for multi-cultural youth in the Denver and Seattle areas, through a program called Vertical Generation—one of the two inaugural recipients of OR’s We Can Grant. “It’s become more and more apparent as to how many resources the climbing lifestyle requires,” Marc says. “Every year the climbing world grows larger with more people discovering the outdoors and it's wonderful benefits; however, this growth has also made the disparity in diversity within the community more apparent.” So he and Julie decided they wanted to try to break down socioeconomic barriers to provide everyone the opportunity to access climbing.
Sharing access with others is important to Marc and Julie, because of how formative climbing has been in their own lives. “It serves as an agent for my mental, emotional, and physical health to refining and challenging personal qualities about myself such as toying with my confidence,” Julie says. “It has also introduced a whole new world of amazing humans that I learn from day in and day out from their fierceness, ambitious, and commitment to serving their passions and the community at large.”
Vertical Generation has a pool of 150 volunteers who host monthly events for groups of up to 20 youth to experience climbing at local gyms in Seattle. “Since our inception in September 2016 we’ve hosted just under 200 youth from various backgrounds for their first climbing experiences,” Marc says.
But costs and logistics of outdoor trips can be daunting for an organization like Vertical Generation. And that’s where the We Can Grant comes in. “The grant money has enabled us and pushed us forward to bringing psyched kids outdoors,” Marc says. “We’re stoked to plan an outdoor trip this coming year with one of the youth organizations we’ve hosted at one of Seattle’s neighboring crags to experience outdoor rock climbing, develop a greater connection to nature, and potentially spark more passions for climbing.”