$701,000 Grant Helps Kids Learn More About National, State and Local Parks

A $701,000 grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation will help kids learn more about, and get more enjoyment out of, local, state, and national parks in North Carolina.

The grant went to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks Program. With the money, the organization plans to expand the program into North Carolina’s state, county, and municipal parks, as well as launch a National Technical Training and Resource Center for Kids in Parks.

In 2008, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the Blue Ridge Parkway partnered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to form the Kids in Parks initiative. With the initial investment of $204,000 by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, the Kids in Parks program has been able to install 9 TRACK Trails, bring more than 35 partners together (including multiple state, federal and local agencies), and link public lands to each other and to the kids and families of the surrounding communities.

Because of the overwhelming success of the pilot program to get kids and families outdoors and reconnected to nature for their health and the health of our parks, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is reinvesting in the Kids in Parks program with this $701,000 grant for the next three years. This grant is going to enable the Kids in Parks program to become a national model for the "no child left inside" movement, as well as expand the program across the state of North Carolina and the nation.

Jason Urroz, Director of the Kids in Parks program, said “We’re so excited to have partnered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation for another three years. This grant is going to enable us to expand the program both within the state of North Carolina, and nationally. The program has come a long way over the last three years… I can’t wait to see where we are three years from now!”

“We believe that this investment will help us further our mission of improving the health and well-being of our fellow North Carolinians,” said Kathy Higgins, President of the BCBSNC Foundation. “It is important that we continue to support innovative and effective programs and services that help individuals and communities across the state.”

Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Phil Francis said, “Thanks to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, this grant will allow us to connect to a new generation of stewards, while at the same time improving the overall health and wellness of those who participate.”