DEWITT, N.Y. (NCC News) – Syracuse leads the nation in child poverty. Many kids in the community do not have a safe place to step outside and play. Ladders to the Outdoors provides kids from the inner – city access to state parks and involves them in outdoor activities.
Staffon Donerlson, coordinator of the CNY division of the program, is aware of the problems these kids face everyday. “Typically, most kids in the city, they’ll play in their community playground. You know, a lot of violence and stuff happens around you, in these playgrounds,” he said. Through the program, kids can learn various outdoor skills. “We have programs like outdoor explorations where we’ll teach kids how to set up tents and set up and start campfires,” Donerlson said.
Donerlson said that exposing kids from underserved communities is important for their mental health. “Just getting the crisp air from the trees versus being in a city with all that traffic and being in those contentious areas, it’s definitely a benefit for mental health and physical health for sure,” he said. The program knows that these kids may not feel comfortable with the outdoors. “The reason why we call it ladders is because we want kids to grow into, you know, climbing that ladder and get becoming more comfortable.” Donerlson said.
Ladders to the Outdoors plans on expanding its reach to other counties in CNY such as Madison and Oswego.