Teens To Trails founder Carol Leone said the national honor her Brunswick-based outdoor group received from the White House two weeks ago most likely resulted from a nomination that came from someone on her board.
But Steve Golden of the National Park Service in Washington said Teens to Trails was nominated by the National Park Service.
Moreover, Golden said those at the Department of the Interior are watching Maine’s 7-year-old youth outdoor advocacy group very closely because they want to duplicate it at the national level.
“We feel the model that they have developed in Maine is a superb one for engaging youth in the outdoors. And I hope we can expand it nationwide. The whole philosophy to use teens to inspire their peers is one we whole-heartedly endorse,” said Golden, the service’s conservation and outdoor recreation director in Washington.
Teens To Trails has worked since its inception to create high school outing clubs across Maine. In that time it has grown the number from seven to nearly 80.
Leone said they still have more than 100 high schools to go, but they’re not stopping.
For that reason, Teens To Trails was named by the White House as one of the 13 conservation “Champions of Change” working across the country to provide innovative opportunities for America’s youth to take part in outdoor recreation and physical activity.
In the past year, the need to get more young people outdoors has risen to the top of the priority list at the Department of the Interior. Golden said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has made connecting America’s youth with nature one of her personal goals.
“The Secretary’s job is a very full job dealing with energy, endangered species, minerals, mining and Native Americans. But she chose engagement of youth with the outdoors as her top priority,” Golden said. “This is as good a model as we’ve seen. And their story is very touching.”
Teens To Trails was founded by Bob and Carol Leone after they lost their daughter, Sara, in a car accident in 2005. The Leones wanted to find a way to honor Sara with a lasting tribute, and the most obvious way was by creating a group that would help share and spread the “amazing passion for life kindled by her connection with the outdoors.”
So Teens To Trails was founded with the mission of creating a high school outing club in every high school in Maine.
“The original mission has been the same from the beginning. We decided then and we have not wavered. It’s still about high school outing clubs,” Leone said.
Since then, Teens To Trails has evolved to offer statewide events run by a T3 staff that now works out of an office in Brunswick.
“Carol and Bob are extraordinary individuals,” Golden said. “Whatever they do, they do well. And they have attracted really good people to their cause. It’s a wonderful success story growing out of tragedy. And it shows how one individual can make a huge difference, not just in their community but in an entire state. And we would like to give it broader attention.”
Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: