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New partnership encourages kids to explore great outdoors

Future anglers pose with their first catch at Beale Air Force Base’s Upper Blackwelder Lake, California. The Air Force recently partnered with the National Park Trust to bring the Buddy Bison Great Outdoors Challenge to military families at several installations. The program encourages children and families to spend less time in front of a screen and more time outdoors. (Courtesy photo)

Future anglers pose with their first catch at Beale Air Force Base’s Upper Blackwelder Lake, California. The Air Force recently partnered with the National Park Trust to bring the Buddy Bison Great Outdoors Challenge to military families at several installations. The program encourages children and families to spend less time in front of a screen and more time outdoors. (Courtesy photo)

Two sisters and their youth counselor enjoy a day of kayaking and fun at Mothers Beach in Long Beach, California. The Air Force recently partnered with the National Park Trust to bring the Buddy Bison Great Outdoors Challenge to military families at several installations. The program encourages children and families to spend less time in front of a screen and more time outdoors. (Courtesy photo by Joseph Juarez)

Two sisters and their youth counselor enjoy a day of kayaking and fun at Mothers Beach in Long Beach, California. The Air Force recently partnered with the National Park Trust to bring the Buddy Bison Great Outdoors Challenge to military families at several installations. The program encourages children and families to spend less time in front of a screen and more time outdoors. (Courtesy photo by Joseph Juarez)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS -- The Air Force Services Activity is partnering with the National Park Trust to bring the Buddy Bison Great Outdoors Challenge to military families at installations.

The Buddy Bison program encourages children and families to participate in programs such as camping, canoeing, fishing and hiking while exploring local, state and national parks.

Thanks to funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy, the Air Force is piloting the program at: Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; Hurlburt Field, Florida; Little Rock AFB, Arkansas; Hill AFB, Utah; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Peterson AFB, Colorado; and the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado.

The funding allows the Air Force to supply installations with support materials to encourage participation.

“We are excited to partner with the National Park Trust,” said Anthony Alcala, AFSVA’s Child and Youth Programs recreation specialist.

NPT is a national non-profit that “protects national parks and engages kids with all of our country’s public lands and waters,” according to the organization’s website.

“This partnership (with NPT) gives our Air Force families opportunities to explore the great outdoors, strengthen family bonds and have fun while engaging in healthy activities,” said Fernando Brown, AFSVA’s Outdoor Recreation recreation specialist.

Participating installations will host kick-off events for Buddy Bison in the coming weeks.

Though final details are still being planned, Peterson Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation will launch the Buddy Bison program May 19 for the summer as part of the America’s Kids Run, said Tim Wise, 21st Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation director.

The Buddy Bison program is a joint-venture between Peterson AFB and USAFA, he said.

With the program, children will receive a Buddy Bison passport or bingo card to collect stamps at Buddy Bison stops. The stops can be found on the installation and at parks in the community.

“This really is a great opportunity to raise awareness of all the local resources available to Airmen and their families,” said Brown.

Although not every installation will be enrolled in the Buddy Bison program, all can participate in NPT’s Kids to Parks Day, held the third Saturday of May each year. This national day of outdoor play encourages exploring outdoor recreation, learning about science, technology, engineering and math; and embracing park stewardship, according to the NPT’s web site.

Based on the success of the Buddy Bison partnership with the Air Force, it may be expanded to other installations in the future.

The Buddy Bison program will wrap up in September at Peterson AFB at Outdoor Recreation’s annual event, Worldwide Day of Play, which encourages kids to play outside, Wise said.

For more information on the Buddy Bison Program and Kids to Parks Day, visit https://www.parktrust.org/kids-to-parks-day/. Information about an installation’s Buddy Bison program is available at participating bases’ child and youth programs and outdoor recreation.

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