New Trails on the Horizon for Kids in Parks Thanks to a Grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

January 20, 2015

(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) - More TRACK trails mean more happy and healthy children and families thanks to a new grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation. Kids in Parks (KIP), a signature program of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, has been awarded $921,000 from the BCBSNC Foundation to continue its work helping kids and families reconnect with nature through TRACK Trails. Over the next three years, the grant will be used to expand the network of trail adventures throughout North Carolina, with a goal of designating at least one trail in every county. Kids in Parks will also develop an app for mobile devices to guide trekkers on the hiking, canoeing, disc golf, and soon-to-open biking paths.

Since its inception in 2008, the Kids in Parks program has introduced children and families to the joys and wonders of the outdoors and encouraged them to become physically active. Activities outlined in brochures provided at each trail encourage children to learn about their natural surroundings and build connections to parks and public land. BCBSNC Foundation has been a key supporter of the program starting with the opening of the first one-mile loop trail at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center, milepost 384, near Asheville, N.C. There are now 58 trails in 35 North Carolina counties, with 10 more slated for completion this year.

“We are fortunate in North Carolina to have so many accessible, beautiful, and diverse places to be active,” said Jennifer MacDougall, Healthy Living Senior Program Officer with BCBSNC Foundation. “One of the missing elements has been a replicable and successful way to connect families and youth to these places and make physical activity a fun and regular part of their lives. Kids in Parks makes the connection between people and parks, which is critical both to the health of our people and the health of our parks long term.”

BCBSNC Foundation’s investment in the program has been crucial to its success. “Kids in Parks is lucky to have a partner like the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation,” says KIP Director Jason Urroz. “Their forward-thinking mindset toward childhood obesity prevention, and the other ailments associated with living non-active lifestyles, has allowed the Kids in Parks program to positively affect the lives of thousands. We’re truly excited to work with them over the next three years, and beyond.”

As the program expands, the ease of the hikes and educational materials will continue to provide a positive introduction to outdoor activities, including hiking, canoeing, and disc golf. In the spring, biking TRACK Trails will open at Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park in Boone, N.C. TRACKers can log their adventures at to earn prizes and read trail profiles to plan their next adventure. The grant will focus on trails in North Carolina, but there are locations in South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, South Dakota, California, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. There are more than 100 TRACK Trails across the country.

“Kids in Parks is a pioneering example of technology encouraging healthy lifestyles through outdoor exploration,” said Sean Higgins, Interpretation and Education Program Manager with North Carolina State Parks. “The self-guided brochures make hiking fun, and our most recent TRACK Trails even offer bilingual brochures to better serve our diverse park visitors. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Kids in Parks through the expansion of TRACK Trails throughout the N.C. State Park system.”

Rather than just a walk through the woods, the brochures encourage children to truly engage with the outdoor world by identifying trees and birds, viewing the forest from the perspective of a turtle, and scavenger hunts for natural features, among other fun activities.

Retired teacher Wendy Bell and her husband, Joe, frequent the trails with their grandchildren. “I remember the excitement they both had when they saw what was on the brochure right before them in the wilderness,” she said. “It really clicked that they needed to pay attention or they’d miss what was right in front of us.”

The impact of the program can be seen at the beginning of every excursion. “Each trail opening amazes me, not just in the amount of openings going on, but how the kids embrace this neighborhood adventure each time,” MacDougall said. “They race to hike the trails at the grand openings like the trails had not existed before. That level of excitement and activity is so refreshing in the age of digital experiences.”


About the Kids in Parks program

Kids in Parks is a program of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and was formed through partnerships between the Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. Working together with partners throughout the country, its mission is to promote children’s health and the health of our parks by engaging families in outdoor adventures that increase physical activity and foster a meaningful connection to the natural and cultural world. The Kids in Parks TRACK Trails program provides kids and families with a network of self-guided hiking trails. Every TRACK Trail has a series of brochures designed to turn an ordinary walk in the woods into a fun-filled adventure. Kids can register every adventure through the Kids in Parks website,, and earn Trail TRACKer Gear designed to make their next outdoor adventure more interactive and fun.


About the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Foundation) is an independent philanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The Foundation's priorities include: Health Care - improving health outcomes of populations served by safety net organizations; Healthy Living - increasing physical activity and access to healthy local foods; and Nonprofit Leadership - increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations and their leaders. BCBSNC Foundation invests in programs and services in response to grant requests and proactively creates initiatives or partners with organizations to address specific needs. It also coordinates several Signature Programs, among them, Be Active Kids® and the Nonprofit Leadership Academy. More information is available at Since its founding in 2000, the BCBSNC Foundation has invested over $100 million into North Carolina communities through more than 750 grants.