The local nonprofit Hearty Roots, after the completion of its pilot season this summer, will continue operations with a more permanent status and add sessions for boys. The organization is now seeking funding for its week- and month-long sessions where Lincoln County kids learn outdoor sports like cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking, and stand-up paddleboarding in order to build confidence and social and emotional skills.
Hearty Roots founder Haley Bezon is applying for grants and looking for other sources of funding to continue the programs, where kids spend time outdoors to gain self-esteem and relieve stress from the pressures of adolescence.
Bezon started the programs with the help of donations of gear and space. She currently works as a counselor at Edgecomb Eddy School, but has done work in wilderness therapy in Alaska. She said her experience with both pushed her to start Hearty Roots.
Working with kids who come into school with significant social and emotional needs and observing “a lack of time spent outside, connecting to the natural world,” she said, made her want to start an organization that helps kids by introducing them to the outdoors.
She said that even though the kids live in Maine, a state well-known for its beautiful coast and lush woods, many have little to no experience with the outdoors.
“When people are in survival mode,” outdoor sports are “out of reach for some,” she said. “I want to change that.”
Right now, Bezon is working on acquiring funding for Hearty Roots to run programs in the future.
“I’m working on grants, trying to navigate the grant world,” she said. “I’m waiting on responses from four or five of them – fingers crossed.” She said she should receive news on some of the grants by the end of the year.
In February, March, and April, Hearty Roots will hold week-long programs at Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson, where some of its previous programs have taken place. Each week will feature day sessions plus an overnight session.
For more information about Hearty Roots programs or to donate, go to heartyroots.org.