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Giving Tuesday: Mountains of good together

November 28, 2023

Found in Community news

Giving back to the outdoors is what the MEC community is all about. Since our first community giveback in 1987 we’ve donated over $48 million, and continue to donate every year through our Outdoor Impact program: our outdoors initiatives that aim to teach outdoor skills, protect wild spaces and grow the communities of people getting outside.

Through partnerships, grants, gear donations and hosting rad events like our Season Opener and Evening Talks with Tommy Caldwell and Sonnie Trotter, MEC is committed to the ongoing journey of celebrating and supporting our outdoors community – and having as much fun as possible in the process.

Our community’s most recent peak? Well, thanks to you, our awesome members, MEC and Smartwool were able to donate $15,000 to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) as part of our Sock week promotion to continue to help protect and conserve Canada’s beautiful wild spaces. When it comes to showing up for the outdoors, nobody does it better than the MEC community.

Photo: Royal Creek joins the Wind River, a tributary of the Peel River in northern Yukon Territory, Canada © Peter Mather/CPAWS

Photo: Royal Creek joins the Wind River, a tributary of the Peel River in northern Yukon Territory, Canada © Peter Mather/CPAWS

This year we want to shine the spotlight on the incredible work, goals and accomplishments of our awesome partners. From breaking down socio-economic barriers to the outdoors, to doubling community member involvement in workshops and programs, 2023 has seen a lot of peaks for our partners. As any hiker can tell you: on the journey it’s just as important to keep your eyes on the trail ahead as it is to celebrate the miles you’ve logged and the summits you’ve reached. So we asked our partners to share some 2023 highlights and future goals for where they’re headed – check it out below to see just a few of their epic achievements.

Teaching outdoor skills

These incredible organizations are committed to teaching outdoor skills like avalanche safety, backcountry risk management, outdoor learning for youth, intros to camping and so much more to inspire safety when recreating outside.

Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG)

The ACMG and MEC have a rich history of partnership, much of which centres around the Adventure Access program. To support this program, MEC provides funding for schools, clubs and other youth groups to hire ACMG-certified guides and instructors for outdoor adventure trips that may not otherwise be accessible to them because of the cost and potential liability.

Photo: ACMG summer Adventure Access Program with the K8 Mountaineering Club of Alberta

Photo: ACMG summer Adventure Access Program with the K8 Mountaineering Club of Alberta

2023 highlight reel:

  • 2023 was the most impactful year yet for the MEC X ACMG Adventure Access Program with over 170 youth and equity-deserving groups across Canada taking part.

  • Adventure Access Program participants ranged from Algonquin National Park to Vancouver Island.

Avalanche Canada

Canada’s national public avalanche safety organization with a mission to inspire, engage and empower recreationists in the backcountry and to stay safe in avalanche territory. Avalanche Canada offers online webinars, Avalanche Skill Training (AST) programs and deliver outreach to winter backcountry users.

Photo: Avalanche Canada outreach team at on Vancouver Island an event during Avalanche Awareness week

Photo: Avalanche Canada outreach team at on Vancouver Island an event during Avalanche Awareness week

2023 highlight reel:

  • Last winter we were lucky enough to welcome 12,046 students into an Avalanche Canada Training course, 8,572 students into our schools program and people looked at our website 7.6 million times. Getting the message out and keeping people safe is always a highlight for us.

Avalanche Quebec

Based out East? Avalanche Quebec is a non-profit organization dedicated to avalanche safety. This is a unique program in eastern Canada that was initiated in the fall of 1999 in the heart of the Chic-Choc Mountains, in Gaspésie.

Photo: Avalanche Quebec doing field testing for the avalanche forecast

Photo: Avalanche Quebec doing field testing for the avalanche forecast

2023 highlight reel:

  • Welcomed 1,024 students into an AST course, and facilitated 150 avalanche safety bulletins during the winter season.

  • Hosted the second edition of the Youth in the Mountains, where 24 young people had the opportunity to take part in a free two-day introduction to mountain skiing, including avalanche safety workshops.

  • Worked with schools to engage and educate youth on backcountry safety. In total, approximately 200 students across 7 schools learned about avalanche safety.

North Shore Mountain Bike Association

A volunteer-driven non-profit organization, The North Shore Mountain Bike Association is dedicated to caring for a network of community trail systems on Vancouver, BC’s legendary North Shore. Fun fact: MEC built and maintains the Expresso on Fromme trail – keep an eye out for friendly staffers and volunteers moving rocks and shaping berms.

2023 highlight reel:

  • The NSMBA contributed over 8000 volunteer hours to the trails in 2023, through 117 public trail days (45 more than 2022). They also had 1517 individual volunteers come out with 500+ of those being new volunteers and 350+ youth volunteers.

  • In 2023 they launched their first women, trans, non-binary (WTNB) dig series and Fiver series to support breaking down barriers within the mountain bike industry.

Goals and milestones:

  • NSMBA’s 2022-2027’s strategic plan outlines 3 main pillars: Responsible land use, community impact and financial resilience. Growth in these three areas is a primary goal for the coming years.

Take Me Outside

Take Me Outside is on a mission to create a world where spending time outside learning, playing and exploring is a regular and significant part of every student’s day. They work with other organizations, school boards, teachers and individuals to encourage children and youth to spend more time outside through various initiatives.

2023 highlight reel:

  • The 13th annual Take Me Outside Day in October was the largest yet, with almost 500,000 educators and learners taking part in a weeklong event celebrating outdoor learning.

  • The National Outdoor Learning Conference in Banff, Alberta took place in May — the first of its kind in the country. Registration for 2024 opened in November and sold out in 24 hours!

  • Approximately 19,000 people from dozens of countries signed up for the free seasonal virtual workshop series this fall, which broke all previous records for participation.

Goals and milestones:

  • Another sold out conference in Banff in May 2024.

  • Brand new educator training program coming soon.

  • Creating a full-time position for TMO’s Executive Director.

Protecting wild spaces

Our partners dedicated to conserving and protecting the incredible wilderness areas we’re so lucky to learn, explore and play in.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only charity dedicated to the protection of public land, freshwater and ocean with a strong national and regional presence across the country. They are Canada’s leader in conservation and have played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres.

2023 highlight reel:

  • For COP 15, many CPAWS staff and Indigenous partners came together in Montreal. The event enabled the coordination of over 30 environmental organizations that support the collective work of more than 130 civil society organizations. A total of 196 countries and their respective governments committed to conserving at least 30% of land and ocean globally while respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

  • In February, CPAWS was honoured to be the key environmental non-governmental organization (ENGO) partner for IMPAC5. This landmark event resulted in several significant advancements for marine protected areas (MPAs) in British Columbia including the pathway to 25% by 2025.

Goals and milestones:

  • This year, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is celebrating their 60th anniversary. This milestone marks six decades of dedicated conservation work.

  • Inspiring a new generation of conservation enthusiasts with a common vision: permanently protecting at least half of land, freshwater and ocean in Canada to sustain nature and people for current and future generations.

Leave No Trace Canada

Since 2006, MEC has supported Leave No Trace (LNT) Canada’s mission to promote the responsible use of outdoor spaces through education, research and partnerships to help people discover the value of natural environments.

Photo: Leave No Trace Canada

Photo: Leave No Trace Canada

Achievements in partnership with MEC:

  • Developing online learning workshops.

  • Hosting Leave No Trace workshops at MEC stores.

  • Translating informational and educational material.

  • Producing Leave No Trace reference cards.

  • Launching a video series to share the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.

Protect Our Winters (POW) Canada

The mission of Protect Our Winters (POW) Canada is to turn outdoor enthusiasts into climate advocates. They lead a national community of professional athletes, forward-thinking industry leaders and outdoor enthusiasts to advocate for systemic policy solutions to climate change with 13 chapters nationwide.

Photo: POW Canada staff and athlete alliance members during a lobby trip to Ottawa

Photo: POW Canada staff and Athlete Alliance members during a lobby trip to Ottawa

2023 highlight reel:

  • Bringing a team of 6 to Ottawa to discuss transit and recreation access across Canada with MPs such as Minister of Tourism Randy Boissonnault, and other policy makers in Canada. They had change-making conversations about what our next steps can be to improve access to the places we recreate and minimize the carbon footprint.

Goals and milestones:

  • With these policy makers, they aim to bring their community of scientists, athletes, creatives and members together to propose real change for Canada. From transit to protecting natural resources, environmental law to education — the goals are never ending.

Growing communities getting active outside

Breaking down socio-economic or even physical barriers to the outdoors. These organizations are connecting communities with the outdoors and creating new generations of nature lovers and conservationists.

L.A. Foundation

With local chapters across the country, the L.A. Foundation aims to make the outdoor industry a more inclusive place, one adventure and adventurer at a time. They support women+, non-binary adventurers and allies in the outdoors.

Photo: L.A. Foundation during a winter chapter event in the Yukon

Photo: L.A. Foundation during a winter chapter event in the Yukon

2023 highlight reel:

  • This year marked a pivotal moment as they dedicated focused efforts to refine and enhance their scholarship delivery program.

  • L.A. Foundation proudly granted seven individuals from our community fully-funded scholarships, enabling them to pursue their aspirations in outdoor education. With additional scholarships in the pipeline, they’re excited to continue expanding on this initiative, solidifying their commitment to fostering diverse leadership in the outdoors.

Goals and milestones:

  • Currently, L.A. Foundation proudly oversees 12 active chapters from Whitehorse, Yukon to Vancouver Island and Ottawa, Ontario. In the coming years, they aim to expand their reach to 15 active chapters nationwide.

  • They’re also excited about the evolution of their scholarship program. Collaborating closely with educator partners and looking forward to providing more scholarships each year.

Parkbus

By offering accessible transportation options to connect city dwellers with nature, Parkbus helps connect thousands of people across Canada with parks, wilderness and outdoor spaces they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.

Photo: Parkbus NatureLink program in Ontario during the fall

Photo: Parkbus NatureLink program in Ontario during the fall

2023 highlight reel:

  • Facilitating of over 70 guided trips to various conservation areas and provincial parks. This extended reach allowed connected even more city residents with the wonders of the outdoors, fostering a sense of community and exploration.

Goals and milestones:

  • Primary focuses include expanding their programs’ reach, introducing innovative outdoor experiences and fostering an even stronger relationship with community partners. Weekday and overnight trips and the first hiking competition are also in the works for future adventures.

Parks Canada

Parks Canada is proudly committed to the preservation and presentation of some of Canada’s natural and cultural wonders. They manage over 200 protected places across the country, including 12 of Canada’s 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Photo: Learn-to Camp program participants at a workshop

Photo: Learn-to Camp program participants at a workshop

2023 highlight reel:

  • Parks Canada's Outreach booths became vibrant hubs of information and excitement at popular trailheads. Families, adventurers and curious minds gathered to learn about camping, outdoor safety and the wonders of natural spaces.

  • Learn-to Camp: Transforming interested or novice campers into seasoned outdoors dwellers for 13 years and counting. A newfound appreciation for the great outdoors blossomed, fostering a sense of stewardship for our natural treasures.

Goals and milestones:

  • 35 overnight events at 19 different locations (Parks Canada administrated sites and partners’ venues).

  • All-summer activities in 7 urban hubs: pop-up outreach, workshops, Learn-to Camp overnight events, other Learn-to activities.

  • Fall season activities are on their way in a few hubs and we’ll be offering in-person and virtual activities including Learn-to cross-country ski.

  • 94,000 contacts so far this year and still counting.

Spirit North

Spirit North has delivered programs to over 13,000 Indigenous youth in 103 communities and 182 schools, across BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and the Northwest Territories – breaking down socio-economic barriers to the outdoors through recreation and adventure.

2023 highlight reel:

  • Working in partnership with communities, we reached more Indigenous children and youth this past year than at any other time in the history of the organization.

  • From the tundra of the Beaufort Delta to downtown Winnipeg – the numbers of programs, activities, events, communities, children, youth, leaders, and staff has increased at an astonishing rate – nearly doubling in some cases.

Goals and milestones:

  • In their path ahead, the Spirit North team is focusing on partnering with more Indigenous communities to bring programs to more youth.

  • Hiring more program leaders from Indigenous communities.

  • Growing our Youth Leadership Program to include employment opportunities for Indigenous youth.

Hike MTL

Hike MTL is a team of educational facilitators who curate excursions and experiences for BIPOC and marginalized communities. Their mission? To empower and destigmatize BIPOC communities by engaging in outdoor recreational activities, while reducing the economic and social barriers and promoting a healthy lifestyle, both physical and mental.

2023 highlight reel:

  • This year marked a significant milestone with the successful launch of BLK WinterFest. This month-long initiative introduced winter sports to Black Montrealers of all ages, featuring 7 diverse events that attracted over 200 attendees.

Goals and milestones:

  • Introducing a corporate wellness team-building package to their offerings. This addition aims to foster team connections in the outdoors, addressing issues of isolation, enhancing the sense of belonging and promoting mental well-being in the workplace. Engaging in outdoor spaces offers a unique and valuable alternative to traditional team-building activities, bringing a refreshing perspective to workplace dynamics.

Les Chèvres de Montagne

Les Chèvres de Montagne is the largest outdoor community of women in Canada. They organize unique events that bring like-minded women together to recreate outside, share best practices, gain confidence and, most importantly, have fun.

Photo: Les Chèvres de Montagne program participants during a climbing event

Photo: Les Chèvres de Montagne program participants during a climbing event

2023 highlight reel:

  • They launched their new website in February 2023! This was a huge step forward for their customer service as it allows them to facilitate events, share knowledge and recipes on their blog and so many other projects.

Goals or milestones:

  • Growing their support of trail maintenance and clean-ups on local mountain bike and running trails.

  • Creating an incentive system for the initiatives our community takes to protect the environment. For example, anyone who carpools to an event will be able to receive a credit or discount for a future activity.

Doing it all

When it comes to giving back to the outdoors, some partners really do it all. Alpine Club of Canada is just one of these organizations running initiatives that fall under all three of our MEC Outdoor Impact program pillars. Teaching outdoor skills through a variety of skill courses, protecting wild spaces through their sustainable recreation and environmental fund (check out some of the hut improvements they’ve rolled out below) and growing local outdoors communities by facilitating community events and adventures. So rad, right? Keep reading to see even more.

Alpine Club of Canada (ACC)

With 25 regional sections, year-round mountain adventures and a big system of backcountry huts, the Alpine Club of Canada has a 117-year history of getting into the alpine.

Photo: Sustainable energy features at the Louise and Richard Guy Hut along the Wapta Icefield in Yoho National Park, BC

Photo: Sustainable energy systems at the Louise and Richard Guy Hut along the Wapta Icefield in Yoho National Park, BC

2023 highlight reel:

  • The ACC made enormous progress on upgrading their backcountry hut system, including seven major improvement projects. Solar, micro-hydro, and wind power installations are replacing many of the older energy systems in the huts.

  • The 6th annual State of the Mountains Report was published in October. Each year, this collection of expert commentaries and climate science articles raises awareness about Canada’s mountain places and the current challenges facing them.

Goals and milestones:

  • The club will be replacing the popular, but out of date Castle Mountain Hut with a larger, modern structure in 2024. The upgrade of this climbers’ hut half-way up Banff’s Castle Mountain will be a major event for the climbing community.

Want to learn more?

With so many rad organizations doing such important and incredible work, it can sometimes feel overwhelming – where do you event start? Check out our MEC Outdoor Impact program page to see more details on each organization and how you can get involved through donations, volunteer opportunities, events and more.


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