cityWILD cultivates deep connections between youth and the natural world, working with them to develop their full potential and achieve their wildest dreams.
Since 1998, cityWILD has engaged in a bold effort to bring the typically exclusive world of outdoor experiential education to a broad, inclusive audience. Our comprehensive, tuition-free programs promote themes of personal empowerment, leadership, and community participation while motivating participants to reach their full potential at school, at home, and in their communities.
cityWILD's programs engage youth in experiential learning opportunities that boldly address issues of inequity, particularly in terms of economic opportunity and access to the outdoors. cityWILD motivates participants to reach their potential at school, at home and in their communities - and they succeed!
cityWILD was founded in 1997 by Jere Lester, MSW, Lara Solomon, and Read McCulloch. The agency’s first outdoor adventure pilot trip was launched in the summer of 1998. Later that year, the organization began targeting young people in northeast Denver. Over the next nine months of all volunteered time, cityWILD founders wrote curriculum, developed community connections, and secured funding to more formally launch the cityWILD program. Since then, the organization has been operating successfully, slowly expanding services to meet demand. Using the outdoors as a classroom and laboratory for hands-on learning, cityWILD offers year-round, youth development programs which provide high risk students with challenging activities, opportunities for growth, healthy lifestyles, peer bonding, and supportive adults.
In 2005 cityWILD was awarded funding for two years from the Denver Foundation to participate in the first round of the Expanding Nonprofit Inclusiveness Initiative (ENII). The purpose of this initiative is for nonprofits to become more inclusive of diverse communities in every aspect of their organization. Although this funding was limited to two years, cityWILD continues to be fully committed to continuing this work on an ongoing basis and is incorporated into our strategic plan.
In early 2008, cityWILD merged with RiverReach, an organization charged with connecting Denver youth to their community through volunteering and urban environmentalism. RiverReach Youth Initiative was founded in 1992 by Jim Pearson, a Denver attorney and impassioned river rafter. From 1992-2007, RiverReach introduced community responsibility and outdoor adventures to more than 25,000 participants and logged more than 50,000 volunteer hours. The impact of their work proved to positively impact both the community and the kids who participated. After significant organizational growth under the leadership of Executive Director Greg Pratt, RiverReach chose to pursue a merger with cityWILD. By combining forces, these two nonprofits now serve more youth, more effectively, and with greater synergy. RiverReach’s operations were bolstered by cityWILD’s year-round programming, and its youth staff. In addition, cityWILD’s Arkansas River operations compliment RiverReach’s urban based program.
In 2010, cityWILD applied for and received an Inclusiveness technical assistance grant from the Denver Foundation’s Inclusiveness Project. This grant focused on receiving feedback from a wide range of cityWILD constituents; board members (present and past), donors, staff, volunteers, and students. The feedback gathered will help to inform cityWILD Inclusiveness committee as it works to move the organization forward within this realm.