The Foundation's Kids in Parks program is preparing to expand its network of family friendly outdoor adventures, called TRACK Trails, in South Carolina. Through a grant from the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation to support the goals of Diabetes Free SC (DFSC), Kids in Parks will establish three TRACK Trails in each of the state’s 46 counties over the next four years for a total of 138 new locations.
To roll out the expansion, Kids in Parks has established an office in Columbia and hired Teddi Thomas Garrick as the South Carolina Program Manager. Garrick will collaborate with partners and families in each community to ensure the program serves the needs of local populations.
The new trails are part of the program’s national network of TRACK Trails, which are designed to introduce families to the health benefits of outdoor play and ensure the continued use and sustainability of public spaces. Recent studies show that, on average, kids spend over seven hours a day “plugged-in” to electronics and only seven minutes a day participating in unstructured outdoor play. TRACK Trails are working to decrease the difference in those numbers and get children and families outside and moving.
“Kids in Parks has a proven record of successful outcomes, and I’m excited to see it improve the health and well-being of families in South Carolina,” Garrick said. “Providing children with a way to engage with nature that makes them healthier and increases the access and use of our local resources is an amazing investment in the state.”
Each TRACK Trail offers visitors a series of brochures at the trailhead that turn an ordinary hike into a fun-filled, discover-packed adventure. The guides encourage young hikers to observe nature during their outings, learning about birds, trees, animals, and even dragonflies. To complement the printed brochures, Kids in Parks is also launching a web-app that will allow children to play games along any trail, making meaningful connections with nature possible no matter where they are exploring.
After each excursion, children can register their TRACK Trail adventure at KidsinParks.com to earn a series of prizes designed to make the next outdoor activity more meaningful and encourage continued participation in the program. Since the program’s inception in 2008, more than 1.25 million adventures by kids have been completed.
“With each of these trails, we hope to engage children in the joys of outdoor exploration for their health and the future stewardship of these amazing public spaces,” said Jason Urroz, Director for Kids in Parks. There are currently more than 250 TRACK Trails across the country, including trails already established in South Carolina at Winnsboro Walk, Swamp Rabbit Trail, Sesquicentennial State Park, and additional locations. In 2021, five of the program’s Top 10 most-visited TRACK Trails were in South Carolina.
The ability to expand the program across the entire state is made possible through a grant awarded by the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation. Regarding their support of the project, Erika Kirby, Executive Director of the Foundation, said, “We are proud to support the TRACK Trails in South Carolina in support of DFSC and its strategic direction of reducing lifelong risk of diabetes in children. Kids benefit from being physically active. Only half of South Carolina’s youth get regular exercise. We see the benefit of this partnership to promote physical activity, which can establish lifelong habits that can help decrease the risk for chronic diseases, including diabetes.”
Another facet of the program will engage physicians across the state by providing tools to prescribe outdoor recreation for their patients. Health professionals will be able to write prescriptions for a hike, playing at a park, spending time in nature, or just getting fresh air every day. Children can also track these activities through the Kids in Parks website and receive prizes. Physicians will receive updates about patients’ participation in the prescribed activities.
For more information about the Kids in Parks program or to find a TRACK Trail, visit KidsInParks.com.
The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Kids in Parks is a signature program of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, helping to engage a new generation of public land stewards in the protection of parks and public lands.