SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) --Hundreds of Bay Area children from underserved communities are getting a chance to get out into nature this summer thanks to a partnership between the YMCA of San Francisco and the National Park Service. The program is a win-win, good for kids and good for the environment.
ABC7 News went along with middle school kids from the Bayview YMCA as they got a chance to go kayaking in Marin County.
"You get to go out of your city and go look at other places that you haven't seen - and it's just beautiful," said 12-year-old Jaumarie.
"If you stay cooped up in the house, it's not going to do anything for your education," said 11-year old Briannah.
The kayakers are among more than 500 Bay Area kids trying out a big range of activities at national parks just a few miles from their homes. It's happening because of a program called "Let's Move! Outside" - promoted by Michelle Obama and made a reality by the YMCA of San Francisco, the National Parks and the parks' non-profit support groups.
Rebeka Berkov with the Presidio Trust led children from the Chinatown YMCA in activities at the Presidio's native plant nursery. "We are really thrilled to be able to partner with the YMCA to bring San Franciscan youth to their own national park," said Berkov.
"When kids have a fundamental relationship with nature early in their lives, their whole lives expand and, for the rest of their lives, nature will be a part of it," said Charles Collins, YMCA of SF President and CEO.
The goal is to reach kids who do not have easy access to nature - and send the message that the national parks belong to all of us, including them.
9-year-old Elliot said this kind of program is good for kids and added "you can't always play video games."
Thirteen-year-old E.J loved the teamwork and "how we work together as a community." He was excited to be kayaking, but several other kids were very nervous at first.
One girl who was afraid her kayak would sink had such a great time, she convinced another frightened girl to give it a try. The program's director, Emilee Adao, still gets choked up by that kind of moment. "I get goose bumps just thinking about the potential of programs like this to reach youth in our community and make a positive change."
This is the second year of the program which costs about $180 per child per week. Most attend for free because of grants and donations. The team is already trying to raise money to keep it going next year, and they would love to hear from you if you want to contribute.
The camp program runs through August 12 and there's still room for a few more kids the final week.
To find out about attending or donating, click here.
Written and produced by Jennifer Olney