OARS Honors BIPOC Mental Health Month

Donates $5 to Justice Outside For Everyone Who Rafts with OARS on the South Fork American River Every Sunday-Friday in July

Angels Camp, Calif.— July is BIPOC Mental Health Month and to mark this occasion, OARS is partnering with Justice Outside, an Oakland-based organization working to advance racial justice and equality in the outdoor industry and environmental movement. For every person who rafts with OARS on California’s South Fork of the American River Sunday through Friday in July, OARS will donate $5 to Justice Outside.

In 2008 congress formally recognized Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, now BIPOC Mental Health Month, to bring awareness to the unique struggles that communities of color face in regard to mental health and wellness in the US and to raise awareness for mental health advocate, author and teacher Bebe Moore Campbell.

“Justice Outside is a leading organization that aligns with our values by getting young people from underrepresented communities outside,” says Steve Markle (he/him), vice president of sales and marketing for OARS. “We want all people, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, to feel welcome on our trips and to have the opportunity to experience the restorative power of nature. And, it’s particularly important to us that BIPOC youth who join us on the river see people who look like them in positions of leadership at OARS so that they might be inspired to lead the next generation of outdoor professionals.”

Justice Outside envisions a just world where Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color experience safety, health, and abundant joy through meaningful relationships with one another and the outdoors by shifting resources to, building power with, and centering the voices and leadership of people of color because the health of current and future generations demand it.

Justice Outside has three programs: the Outdoor Educators Institute (OEI), Rising Leaders Fellowship (RLF) and the Cultural Relevancy Series (CRS). These free programs have positive impacts on their participants’ mental and physical health while also working to dismantle issues of race and gender in the outdoor industry. The organization operates, OEI, their free three-month career development program for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ young adults who are interested in careers or leadership opportunities in the outdoors or outdoor industry.

“During these programs, the goal is to build community within the group,” says Lau Hernandez (they/them), OEI program coordinator for Justice Outside. “I feel like a big barrier to access has to do with safety, whether that’s not having the right gear or not having anyone else in the community to go with. It’s a space everyone deserves to be in and everyone should feel safe in. Being able to do that in a community where you feel comfortable and strong with one another makes people feel a little less alone and that it’s not just them that are experiencing these things.”

OARS is proud to support all three Justice Outdoors programs with proceeds from the trips and continue to offer adventure and opportunity for friends, families and colleagues to relax and spend time on the river while providing a safe space to talk about mental health while also continuing to prioritize the company’s work and commitments to breaking down barriers to the outdoors and supporting organizations like Justice Outside. It’s critical for OARS to partner with organizations like Justice Outside who are changing the narrative and not only inspiring Communities of Color to pursue outdoor careers, but also directly connecting them with professional opportunities in the outdoors.

“Addressing diversity, equity and inclusion starts with the well-being and resilience of our community,” says Markle. “We are working hard to continue cultivating a community and a culture where people can share, listen and learn—and we are committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces both on and off the river.”

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