OAKLAND, CA -- One year ago today, Tracey Friley's right eye was twitching uncontrollably. As the Executive Director of OBG Adventure Camps, a travel and learning adventure program for girls 11-16, Friley was gearing up for her very first camp experience that would journey to a beachfront campground location in the United States Virgin Islands, and she was stressed. "I didn't know if I could pull it off," says Friley. "I'd been planning this program for many years knowing that it can be very difficult for many parents of color to trust and let their children go off to camp, particularly when camp involves travel. But in the end, I managed to get it done." And get it done she did.
With two successful camp sessions under her belt - having taken place in both the US Virgin Islands and California's Lake Shasta - Friley and her qualified team are now gearing up for the 2011 season with CampCaribe 2011 where diverse girls from around the nation will participate in a multicultural camp experience, environmental engagement, cultural appreciation, beach, land & water activities, and a fantastic dolphin encounter in the Caribbean sea. "This time," laughs Friley, "the twitch in my eye isn't so bad."
Friley's twitch has calmed down a bit because she believes that steps are being made in The Outdoor Movement as it relates to diversity. Not only does the White House have outdoor and healthy lifestyle initiatives in place, but America's First Daughter Malia Obama set an example for tween girls of color when she went to camp for the first time this past summer, and even Oprah Winfrey and her bosom buddy Gayle took up Park Ranger Shelton Johnson's offer to go camping and road tripped to Yosemite National Park for all of the world to see. "When the public sees African-American girls and women enjoying the Great Outdoors, we hope that it sends the message that outdoor recreation is for everyone," laments Alley Bailey, an OBG Adventure Camps staff member and one of two African-American lifeguards on staff. "This is good stuff."
American Camp Association statistics indicate that less than 11% of campers in the independent camp sector are in minority groups. Shelton Johnson, the African-American park ranger that invited Oprah to Yosemite has this to say on CNN.com: "African-Americans today are least likely to have a wilderness experience, but we descend from people who were most likely to have intimacy with the land." Likewise, Last Child in the Woods author Richard Louv has coined the phrase 'Nature Deficit Disorder' to describe the lack of outdoor engagement by today's youth. And Friley only knows too well about these truths. "I had a number of adults upon seeing my girls engaging in beach and waterfront fun ask me if my group was at-risk. People just aren't used to seeing a group of diverse girls traveling to and hanging out in such a high end island environment."
Because of these types of comments, because there is a dramatic shift in the nation's demographics and because camp helps kids gain independence, build character and develop critical thinking and social skills, camp programs like Friley's that reach out to girls of color are critical.
Vanessa Sanchez, a social worker and another member of the OBGAC staff, agrees. "As a triathlete and camping addict, I don't see as much diversity as I would like. Programs with like this that reach out to children of color are critical to a child's overall development. When Tracey asked me to participate, it was a no-brainer. I couldn't say no."
With Malia, Oprah & Gayle leaving camp behind and moving on to their next adventure, Friley remains optimistic in spite of the stats. Her non-profit grassroots adventure program, which is going into its second year, enrolls a majority of African-American Adventurers although she's determined to make the program more multicultural in the years to come. "In my ideal world, I'd like OBG Adventure Camps to represent the world we live in," says Friley, the only Brown Girl at camp growing up. "Empowering African-American children is a priority, but a program that is an accurate representation of the world we live in would be just perfect."
ABOUT OBG ADVENTURE CAMPS
OBG Adventure Camps are travel & learning adventure programs for nationwide girls ages 11-16 with a focus on a multicultural camp experience, environmental engagement, cultural appreciation and land, beach & waterfront activities. Adventurers travel as a group to the US Virgin Islands, Catalina Island, Hawaii, Lake Shasta and other waterfront location for this once-in-a-lifetime journey that gives girls a world view. Custom programs are available for groups of 10 or more. The Leader-in-Training pilot program is now open to girls 15 and 16. Registration is now open for CampCaribe 2011 taking place in the US Virgin Islands April 22-May 3.
ABOUT TRACEY FRILEY
Award winning entrepreneur Tracey Friley MBA, is the creator & Executive Director of OBG Adventure Camps and OneBrownGirl.com®. A seasoned traveler and former camper that attended day camps, after school camps & overnight camps as a kid, Tracey's most notable camp experience was spending her summers as a camper on Catalina Island where she learned the beauty of a campfire and how to water ski in the Pacific Ocean. Tracey is committed to empowering diverse teen girls with a unique and eye-opening camp experience meant to expand their world view. Armed with a diverse professional background and an MBA in Global Management, Tracey is not only dedicated to being of service, but she has a genuine and heartfelt passion for empowering girls with a global view, positive messages about culture, environmental engagement and water & beach activities. Her personal camp story can be found on the Oprah's Angel Network Web site. See also Re-Connecting with Nature in the US Virgin Islands on American Airlines' Black Atlas Web site.