Blue Ridge Parkway CEO Honored By White House For Getting Kids Outdoors

Carolyn Ward, the CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, was honored Thursday by the White House for the Foundation's efforts to get kids outdoors. With her is Jason Urroz, who directs the Foundation's Track Trails program.

Carolyn Ward, chief executive officer of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, has been honored by the White House for her organization's efforts to get kids outdoors.

Ms. Ward was one of 13 leaders recognized as Let’s Move! and Physical Activity Champions of Change for their work to inspire and empower America’s youth to lead active, healthy lifestyles.

First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move! initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation, and physical activity – in addition to a healthy diet – is a key focus of the initiative. In cities and towns across the country, diverse organizations are offering innovative programs and tools that get kids moving. Thursday’s event highlighted some of these models and celebrated the individuals that are driving them at the local level.

“I’m so proud that leaders like these have found new and exciting ways to help our kids get up and moving,” said the First Lady at Thursday's event. “If we’re going to end our nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity, we need to make sure our kids get the physical activity and nutritious foods they need to grow up healthy and strong. These leaders have done just that, and that’s what makes them true champions for their communities and our country.”

Ms. Ward was chosen for her work in developing the Kids in Parks program. Kids in Parks installs self-guided, brochure-led hiking trails, called TRACK Trails, designed to connect children to the outdoors, address the health problems associated with physical inactivity and nurture the next generation of stewards for our public lands.

Since 2008, the program has grown from one TRACK trail opened at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville, North Carolina, to a national program of TRACK trails that spans 3 states and partners with six major state and federal land management agencies.

“The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program is honored to have this recognition and work with the White House and our public lands agencies to get kids unplugged and outside," Ms. Ward said. "By developing the future generation of stewards, this program is vitally important to the future health of the Blue Ridge Parkway and all public lands.”

Since 2010, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program has been run by Jason Urroz, its program director. Under his leadership, the program continues to expand. In 2012 alone, more than 25 TRACK trails are scheduled to open across the country, expanding the network of opportunities for kids to unplug and get outdoors.

“It’s been an honor to work with Carolyn on the development of the Kids in Parks program,” said Mr. Urroz. “Hopefully we will be able to leverage this phenomenal recognition by the White House to further expand our network of TRACK Trails.”

About Champions of Change

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

To learn more about our Champions go to www.whitehouse.gov/champions

About Kids in Parks

The Kids in Parks Initiative is sponsored by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. Working together with partners throughout the country, their mission is to promote children’s health and the health of our parks by engaging families in outdoor adventures that increase physical activity and foster a meaningful connection to the natural and cultural world.

The Kids in Parks TRACK Trails program provides kids and families with a network of self-guided hiking trails. Every TRACK Trail has a series of brochures designed to turn an ordinary walk in the woods into a fun-filled adventure. Furthermore, for every adventure that kids register through the Kids in Parks website, www.kidsinparks.com, they earn Trail TRACKer Gear designed to make their next outdoor adventure more interactive and fun.