A Mindful Mission: Our Story
Feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression plagued me for most of my teenage and young adulthood. I never felt quite like a fit in or like I was enough. These feelings came to a head in the summer of 2015. After getting married, buying a house, and achieving my "dream body," I still felt empty and worthless.
I had no clue what to do with all the pressure building inside me. Then one day, I got the idea to plan a short hike. It was nothing fancy. Just me, my partner Michelle, and a few friends. I wrote out a few journaling prompts and a short meditation to make it interesting.
When I opened my eyes from the meditation, I saw that two new people had joined us. We had no clue who they were, but they were there, and they stayed after we finished up. The first thing they asked us before we began to disperse was, “how they could join the program.” Needless to say…. there was no program at the time. But I took their presence and inquiry as evidence that perhaps there should be one. So I built one. Fast.
The whole thing was deeply personal- until it wasn’t.
I learned that there were so many women just like me who were struggling with similar feelings. I wanted to create a safe space for them to live, love, grieve, and process. From this experience, inspiration, and intent - the Outdoor Journal Tour was born.
Our first formal event, #wehiketoheal (women everywhere hike to heal), was just two months later. And we kept doing it—for the past six years!
But things have not always been simple for us. #wehiketoheal was built out of passion -not profit. We moved at the speed of the women who needed us, many times without stopping to calculate the costs. When things cost money- we figure out how to pay for it. When our community needed things-we made it happen. After seven years of doing this, we realize that this community and cause is bigger than just an event. It’s a movement.
And it should be its own organization.
This fundraiser is the first official raise for our new nonprofit; We Hike to Heal, Inc.
What will the funds be used for? How will the donations help us and others?
Our current campaign will be used to support the expansion of the #wehiketoheal program into a free-standing 501c3 nonprofit.
More specifically, we will use the money to:
- Recruit Hike Leads/Ambassadors to represent each of the 50 states
- Expand to 100 + group hike locations for #wehiketoheal 2023
- Develop an Outdoor Wellness Curriculum for marginalized populations
- Create Educational Tools, and Host Wellness Events for the Community
We want our communities to have the best tools, products, and resources. That’s why we are excited to partner with the number-one outdoor water bottle in the industry for this campaign. Hydro Flask!
Their partnership allows us to offer everyone who donates a free gift.
Complete the form after you make your donation to claim your FREE GIFT!
ALL GIFTS WILL BE MAILED AFTER THE CAMPAIGN - NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 15, 2022.
Failed Fundraising Campaigns
Although we have been successful in creating and providing a safe environment for outdoor wellness, we have not been as successful in raising funds to support our mission. In both 2020 and 2021, the majority of our operating dollars have come from sponsors. Previous community-based campaigns have yielded only a fraction of the support we need. Our last attempt to raise funds was in August. Our goal was $14,000, but we finished the month out with only $1,400. As we grow, we want to build a community that is engaged and energetic. So we decided to regroup and realign with our mission.
We did some research and discovered that Hydro Flask is among the country's best-selling water bottles and is the number one best-selling item in the outdoor category on Amazon. Because of that, we are excited to be working with Hydro Flask for our end-of-year fundraising campaign.
THE ODJT Hydration Collection w/ Hydro Flask features three signature pieces
- The Water Bottle (21 ounces)
- The Tumbler (20 ounces)
- The Coffee Cup (12 ounces)
Each features the ODJT/Hydro Flask co-branding. These products can be used in a variety of different settings, have diverse functionality, and are available in an assortment of colors.
Items in this collection will be offered as gifts for your donation.
Gifts are contingent upon giving levels. Complete the form after making your donation to claim your FREE GIFT!
ALL GIFTS WILL BE MAILED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE CAMPAIGN - NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 15, 2022.
Why do we need your donation?
Michelle and I are queer women of color working in the outdoor industry. This distinction makes us a triple minority in this space. There are no other outdoor wellness founders that fit this specific demographic. And that means there are even fewer organizations focused on women and women of color, until now.
We believe that equal access to outdoor spaces is essential to the health of BIPOC women.
In collectivist cultures, women are often charged with the emotional well-being of the family. We are expected to keep peace, and balance in the home while silently shouldering the burdens of the outside world. Unfortunately, due to stigma, and healthcare disparities BIPOC women don’t often have equal access to traditional wellness care. Because of that, BIPOC women are disproportionately at risk for a host of mental health challenges. And while outdoor spaces are not a cure- something as simple as spending a few hours outside has been proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. In fact, it’s not uncommon for healthcare professionals to prescribe sun and fresh air to clients who suffer from mild cases of depression. BIPOC women need access to fresh air, Vitamin D, quiet, and wide-open spaces just as much as anyone else. Perhaps even more because of the added stress/trauma that being a woman of color can bring. When BIPOC women don’t have equal access to outdoor spaces, not only does our wellness suffer, but so does the wellness of our families and community.
Yet women of color commonly experience barriers…
In our experience, some of the greatest barriers BIPOC women face in accessing outdoor spaces are trust, safety, and community. Historically BIPOC people have had tragic experiences in outdoor spaces. From lynching to being systematically displaced or downright denied access, people of color have not always been welcome or felt safe being outdoors. That threat is only magnified for women who may also fear sexual assault or abuse.
Racist History + Implications
We wish people knew there was a time in the not-too-distant past when people of color (Blacks and Mexicans specifically) were literally banned from specific outdoor spaces.
A few years ago, while visiting the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, ODJT co-founder, Kenya learned that during segregation, “Whites Only” also applied to National Parks, public pools, and other large outdoor spaces. Some people are under the impression that the “outdoors” has always been “open” and that BIPOC people have just opted out of utilizing them. But that isn’t true. BIPOC people were prohibited from participating in certain outdoor activities and attending certain spaces. That knowledge was heartbreaking, and it caused us to approach our work in a much more dynamic way.
#wehiketoheal is creating a safe space:
In an effort to create a safe, welcoming, and sacred experience for our participants, we take a few precautions. First, we always scout our locations-and not just the trail that we are hiking but also the area where said trail is located. We make sure the space is safe, that there is ample parking, multiple exits, bathrooms, rangers/staff on duty etc. Secondly, we always move in a group. No woman is ever left alone. We make a commitment to start and end together. Thirdly, we inform and educate. Prior to any outing, we communicate the route (including elevation and mileage) to our group. This is meant to help participants understand the physical demand they will be placing on their bodies while out with us. Of course, we also provide water and snacks to ensure that our group has the hydration and energy to complete a hike.
Amplifying our voice
We Hike to Heal, Inc. is lucky to be sponsored by and partnered with some of the largest outdoor organizations in the country. We consider it a privilege to speak up on behalf of our community on matters of race, gender, and sexuality.
Michelle and Kenya Jackson-Saulters, founders