It’s the end of 2018 and the beginning of another year. As we look back at what was an amazing year for Gear Forward we take pause to remember all of those who have donated to our cause, the continued and new partnerships formed and the kids we have helped to discover the outdoors.
Towards the end of 2017 Gear Forward addressed a need for a Cub Scout Pack in Katy, Texas. This was the largest gear need undertaken by our non-profit at the time. To satisfy this need Gear Forward created it’s first online Facebook fundraiser to raise the necessary funds to purchase fifty sleeping bags for all of the youth impacted by Hurricane Harvey in late 2017. The fundraiser was a huge success and lead to a gear company donating a significant amount of gear to the boys in addition to the items procured by Gear Forward. Having proven the fundraising tool as a resource this option provided Gear Forward another avenue to address non-traditional or larger scale needs in the upcoming year.
In 2018, Gear Forward raised nearly $8,500 in donations via Facebook fundraisers via direct need fundraisers, general fundraisers and birthday fundraisers for Gear Forward that were created by supporters of Gear Forward. These funds directly supported the purchase of sleeping bags and tents for the USC Troy Camp in California, Girl Scout Troops in Minnesota for the purchase of tents, a Boy Scout Troop in Puerto Rico who were impacted by Hurricane Maria in late 2017, and to provide outdoor essentials (swimsuits, towels, bugspray, suntan lotion and duffle bags) for underprivileged youth attending the 4-day summer camp experience at Camp Care-A-Lot in our hometown of Springfield, IL, just to name a few.
In addition to assisting youth with outdoor gear deficiencies in places like Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Tennessee we also gave back to our veterans this Veterans day weekend by sleeping outdoors in a cardboard box to raise funds for homeless veterans in Springfield, IL. Our supporters once again came through and not only reached our goal but exceeded our fundraising goal and raised a total of $1,050. These funds were provided to the Fifth Street Renaissance to complete renovations on a new family and female veteran home for homeless veterans.
Our year could not have been what it was without the support of outdoor enthusiasts who continually support Gear Forward financially, allowing us to make necessary purchases for youth outdoor organizations when on-hand gear doesn’t meet the need or specific items are required to fulfill the gear gap. In addition to our individual supporters, we can’t forget the many new partnerships we have developed and continued to foster in 2018. Two key-note relationships are with Campmor and the New York New Jersey Trail Conference who since March of 2018 have hosted gear donation boxes at their locations which have helped to outfit hundreds of youth in the local NY/NJ area as well as bring about awareness of Gear Forward and our mission. We would also like to mention the new relationships we forged with the Ozark Trail Association, Hart Outdoor, and Sasquatch Fuel.
On January 1, 2018, Gear Forward announced that we would begin taking donations of Boy Scout and Girl Scout uniforms to assist youth in need of outdoor gear who also may have a uniform deficiency. Since the announcement a year ago Gear Forward has continually received both Boy Scout and Girl Scout uniform shirts, pants, belts, hats and other accessories on a regular basis. We are proud to report we have also outfitted many new Cub Scouts who were in need of their very first uniform shirt and we are very excited to outfit more scouts in the coming year.
In 2018, Gear Forward expanded it’s cadre of Gear Forward Ambassadors to nearly twenty members to assist in the outreach and connection to the outdoor community around the United States to identify needs and source gear to satisfy local needs. With the growth and pace of activity of Gear Forward in 2018 two of the Gear Forward Ambassadors were asked to take on new roles and become more involved on a day to day basis to not only address current needs of the organization but to assist in its growth and future development. Gear Forward would not have had the year of success it has enjoyed nor would so many youths in need have the gear they need to get outdoors without the tireless effort and dedication of Ms. Diana Richards and Ms. Jennifer Glasgow Potts, both Gear Forward Development Coordinators.
In 2019 Gear Forward is ready to expand even more. We plan on growing our ambassador group across the country, which will help us outfit even more of the next generation of adventurers. We appreciate every single one of you that has helped in any way to spread the love of the outdoors to our youth in need, and we have so many exciting plans that are presently under development to help more youth get outside in this new year. We wish you all a happy and healthy new year, and stay tuned to see what Gear Forward will do this year!