Funds will help Oregon Zoo teach conservation

The Nike Employee Grant Fund recently awarded a $10,000 grant to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to help introduce low-income and minority youth to the benefits of outdoor camping and conservation.

The grant supports the zoo’s Urban Nature Overnights program, which uses camping trips to teach recreation skills and basic environmental concepts to children who have not traditionally had access to outdoor SUBMITTED PHOTO: MICHAEL DURHAM - An Urban Nature Overnight camper examines a flower through a magnifying glass at the Oregon Zoo.

This summer, as they have for the past dozen years, UNO campers will pitch tents in spots like the Wildwood Recreation Site, Oxbow Regional Park and Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge for activities that include swimming, hiking and meals around the campfire. Naturalists and park rangers teach the children about local wildlife and the importance of conservation.

“We’re proud to be giving kids an exciting, safe introduction to Oregon’s amazing outdoor world,” said Jody Van Riper, UNO coordinator. “We want to ignite their interest and encourage them to pursue outdoor opportunities through school, family, community groups and even careers. Our hope is that UNO participants will turn their initial excitement into a lifelong interest in the natural world.”

Since 2000, Urban Nature Overnights has taken more than 4,000 children on camping trips. As funding permits, UNO also runs after-school programs during the academic year, including conservation projects and field trips. All UNO programs are provided to participants free of charge.

“The zoo’s UNO program has such a unique and positive impact on our community,” said Nike community investment manager Kathy Webb, who administers the company’s employee grant program. “Not only does UNO provide opportunities for young people to engage in physical activity outdoors, but it also teaches them about the environment.”

“This grant serves as a shining example of the difference we can make with support from our community partners,” said Jani Iverson, executive director of the Oregon Zoo Foundation. “We’re very grateful to Nike for their investment — the UNO program is a model of successful community collaboration and public-private partnership.”

In addition to the Nike Employee Grant Fund, current UNO sponsors include the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Power Foundation, the JFR Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation, the Oregon Zoo Foundation and Trust Management Services.

Community partners include Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area, SUN Community Schools, Mill Park Elementary School, Human Solutions Learn Links Program, Portland Parks and Recreation and Metro Parks and Greenspaces.

Urban Nature Overnights operates in conjunction with Zoo Animal Presenters, a three-year paid internship program that trains high school students in natural science, animal handling, interpretation methods and public speaking. To find out more about the zoo’s UNO and ZAP programs, visit

The Nike Employee Grant Fund was established in 2010 and seeks to benefit communities where Nike employees live, work and play. Administered in partnership with The Oregon Community Foundation, it awards up to $550,000 per year to local nonprofit organizations or schools that wish to join Nike in creating positive social or environmental change.

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