Teens to Trails hosted its first post-pandemic Bow Ties to Bean Boots fundraiser March 31 at Après seltzer bar in Portland’s East Bayside. The 140 guests – many of them showing off bow ties, Bean boots or both – bid on outdoorsy auction items, ordered specialty grilled cheese sandwiches from a Cheese Louise food truck, and gathered around a campfire.

“Teens to Trails helps kids go on outdoor adventures and supports school outing clubs, helping them with activities and gear,” said Owen Hill, a Teen Advisory Council member from Morse High School.

Through ticket sales, sponsorships, an auction and a paddle raise, Bow Ties to Bean Boots raised $33,000 to support 68 middle and high school outing clubs – and counting – statewide.

Ally Muir, an outing club advisor at The New School in Kennebunk, has taken students running, biking, hiking, paddling and skiing. “It’s important for teens to have opportunities to find a community outside,” she said. “Teens to Trails has helped us financially to increase access.”

Executive Director Alicia Heyburn said, “We provide outdoor leadership skills for teachers and plan trips, take gear donations and partner with Maine Gear Share. And we provide grants, because outing clubs are rarely part of school budgets.”

Through Maine Gear Share, Teens to Trails supplies tents, backpacks, apparel and outerwear.


“Everyone can have the same quality gear, which is important for accessibility for youths getting out for the first time,” said Emily Mackeown of Maine Gear Share.

“It’s hard to enjoy the beauty of nature if you’re wet and cold,” added Liv Berg, also of Maine Gear Share.

Guests at Bow Ties to Bean Boots included Teens to Trails founders Carol and Bob Leone of Edgecomb and their daughter Lindsay Leone and son-in-law Ben Sampson of Cape Elizabeth. The Leones established the outdoor-focused nonprofit in memory of their daughter Sara, a Wiscasset Outing Club member who was killed in a car accident in 2005.

The Leones hosted the first Bow Ties to Bean Boots in 2014, and the popular fundraiser continued to gain momentum through spring 2019. Heyburn, who was hired that fall, shepherded the nonprofit through the pandemic, as the number of outing clubs surged from about 40 to more than 80.

“COVID support to Maine Department of Education was channeled to outdoor activities that fostered social connection, and we were able to help 84 schools run clubs,” Heyburn said. “This year, that funding is gone, but we have an impressive 68 clubs, the majority at high schools – which was our full focus until 2021 – and about 16 middle schools, an age group we are really happy to be working with.”

After a four-year hiatus, this was the return of Teens to Trails’ signature fundraiser – complete with an instructional poster for first-time bow-tie wearers and an L.L.Bean custom lace bar to bling up boots.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at amyparadysz@gmail.com.

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