I began working with Operation Wild in July of this year and it has been a whirlwind! Thanks to Allison Geleynse, the Program Coordinator before me, the foundation for Operation Wild’s success was already laid. Still, being new to the program, the end of 2019 was full of nervousness and excitement for me, with many hills to climb and many milestones to celebrate. I wanted to take a few moments to reflect back on what 2019 has meant for Operation Wild.
“You don’t need to look hard to see how this benefits people.”
I have been in the Developmental Services sector for 8 years, but when I began with Operation Wild, I didn’t know what to expect from such a unique program. What does environmental education for people with disabilities actually look like? The first session that I joined, I was blown away. It was not only the quality of the experience or the knowledge of the session leaders that struck me — it was how obviously beneficial and meaningful the session was for everyone. I remember debriefing with our staff following this initial day with Operation Wild; my first response was, “you don’t need to look hard to see how this benefits people”. Participants that were initially shy or uneasy of their surroundings gained confidence in front of your eyes, allowing their unique personality to shine through.
Operation Wild provides something that is unique, uncommon, and essential for the wellbeing of everyone, regardless of ability. You don’t need to be a social worker, biologist, or have a PHD to see the benefits of connecting people with creation in meaningful ways.
Nevertheless, the numbers still speak to the power of this program! With programming winding down for the winter, we nearly have a full picture of statistics for the year. Here is a quick look at Operation Wild 2019:
- Operation Wild saw a total of 460 people participate in programming.
- Participants came from a variety of 16 different local service agencies, and 14 of these were new partnerships in 2019.
- Operation Wild ran a total of 50 sessions in 2019, consisting of 8 different sessions on topics ranging from Wildflowers, Pond Life, Wellness Walks, Edible Plants, and much more.
- Our goal entering 2019 was to have 200 new participants access programming. We are excited to announce that we have now provided 260 new participants the opportunity to experience the benefits of nature through Operation Wild!
This growth speaks to the value and necessity of accessible nature experiences and environmental education. We want to thank everyone that contributed to making 2019 a success, including Operation Wild participants, support staff, partner agencies, volunteers, A Rocha staff, and our generous sponsors.
With 2020 just around the corner (and a goal of 350 new participants), we are filled with excitement for what this coming year will mean for Operation Wild as we continue to see stories of transformation unfold.
Matt Koning, Operation Wild Program Coordinator