Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) and Merrell are joining forces in a multi-year partnership that will harness the power of being outside and make it more accessible to more youth. Merrell, known for its outdoor and lifestyle footwear and apparel, will be a premier outdoor industry partner of BBBS and will work with the national one-to-one mentoring organizations to create life-changing connections for young people in the United States and Canada.
The BBBS mentoring program pairs young people (called ‘Little Brothers’ or ‘Little Sisters’) with caring adult mentors (called ‘Big Brothers’ or ‘Big Sisters’). The goal of the partnership with Merrell is to break down the barriers to the outdoors that youth face while providing outside activities for Bigs and Littles to enjoy together. With heightened time spent indoors and behind screens due to societal changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, Merrell and BBBS are committed to encouraging and providing youth access to the outdoors in order for them to reap the imperative mental and physical health benefits time outside provides.
In addition to a financial contribution to BBBS and outdoor gear to youth in the mentoring programs, the partnership will bring more awareness and increase equity for all youth, who may not have adequate access to nature, natural parks, or public trails. The need for connecting is even stronger now, with young people facing social isolation due to the pandemic.
“For many of the young people in our program, simply walking to the park isn’t a possibility,” said Artis Stevens, incoming President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. “It requires public transportation, extensive planning and sometimes it’s cost prohibitive to do something as simple as finding a safe place to go for a walk or ride a bike. Partners like Merrell see the value of leveling the playing field so all youth—regardless of their socio-economic status or where they live—have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.”
“We’ve seen research that shows early exposure to nature and green spaces can support mental and physical health,” said Matthew Chater, National President and CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. “And when you consider that many of the youth we serve are already facing adverse childhood experiences —trauma, abuse or neglect— having this type of outlet for their well-being can make a long-lasting, positive impact on their lives.”
“Our purpose at Merrell is to share the simple power of being outside with everyone. We believe the earlier you get outside the better – hopefully to reap a lifetime of the physical and emotional benefits of the outdoors,” said Chris Hufnagel, Global Brand President of Merrell. “Our partnership with BBBS will bring together our joint missions of getting more youth the access they otherwise would not have in order to foster a lifelong connection to our outside spaces, whether it’s a local park or your front yard.”
The partnership will develop guides, resources, and activations to give Bigs and Littles opportunities to get outside, with elevated campaigns during times such as Great Outdoors Month in June, as well as Merrell’s 40th birthday celebration happening throughout the year. During Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in September, Bigs and Littles will have the opportunity to participate in the Step Further Challenge, an interactive activity to track outdoor activities and compete with others.