KANSAS CITY, Mo. (JULY 20, 2023)– Jack Dorsey, Block Head, Chairman, and co-founder of Block, Inc., donates $1 million of unrestricted funding through his philanthropic initiative #startsmall to support inclusive national youth development nonprofit Camp Fire and its long-standing mission: connecting young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves.
#startsmall specifically focuses on global crisis relief, girls’ health and education, and open internet development. Recognizing Camp Fire’s roots as the first nonsectarian, multiracial organization for girls founded in 1910, #startsmall’s investment will help scale programming for girls and all young people across the country.
Fourteen months before COVID-19 brought much of the world to a standstill, Camp Fire launched a pilot program with an ambitious effort to expand accessibility, meaningful participation, and equitable representation of youth historically excluded from the summer camp experience. This included special attention to ensuring that youth with disabilities, youth from economically underserved backgrounds, and LGBTQ2S+ youth can fully pursue and benefit from high-quality outdoor experiences. #startsmall’s investment will also help Camp Fire scale this program beyond summer camps, so it can offer it year-round, as well as build organizational capacity, remove barriers, and expand access to its programs across its 46 affiliates in 24 states.
“#startsmall’s investment will positively impact the lives of thousands of young people across the country who may not historically have had access to our programs,” said Greg Zweber, Camp Fire National Headquarters CEO. “We are excited to leverage this grant as catalytic, helping us build momentum and new partnerships around the critical work we are doing to best support today’s youth and families.”
Growing up is hard. Young people are in the middle of a mental health crisis–especially teen girls. In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on the mental health challenges kids, teens, and young adults are facing. Then, in 2023, Murthy issued yet another advisory: “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” along with recommended solutions and the healing effects of social connection. According to the research, loneliness is, sadly, a better predictor of early death than smoking, obesity, or cancer. We also know that students are still struggling to catch up after pandemic disruptions. Although the past school year helped young learners chip away at the COVID-19 learning gap, many students are still behind. Math and reading scores remain lower than normal. Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students are more likely to face pandemic academic challenges. According to The Trevor Project, youth identifying as LGBTQ2S+ or questioning their sexuality face multiple threats to their mental well-being resulting from COVID-19. The loss of positive social interactions caused by school closings, access to supportive communities, and housing instability– all contribute to feelings of isolation and despair.
But the good news is we know what helps. According to research, developmental relationships and access to nature and the outdoors have all been recognized as an antidote for loneliness and mental health impacts. That’s why Camp Fire utilizes these powerful avenues to foster inclusive environments where all kids feel seen, heard, accepted, and invested in for who they are today, and who they want to be in the future. The measurable benefits to youth are positive identity and a sense of belonging, creative and critical thinking, social skills, and self-management, all elements of human thriving that result from feeling a sense of connection to themselves, to their peers, to supportive adults, and to nature. These benefits accrue not only to participating youth, but to their families, schools, and communities in long-term outcomes such as increased pro-social behaviors, academic success, job and career readiness, general health and mental health well-being, and a life-long love of the outdoors.
We are grateful for #startsmall’s catalytic investment to support Camp Fire’s mission and expand opportunities for young people to thrive.
#startsmall is Jack Dorsey’s philanthropic initiative to fund global crisis relief, girls’ health and education, and open internet development. Dorsey transferred $1 billion (28% of his wealth) to #startsmall in 2020.
ABOUT CAMP FIRE
Growing up is hard. That’s why Camp Fire connects young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves. Founded in 1910, Camp Fire was the first nonsectarian, multiracial organization for girls but today is an inclusive national youth development nonprofit that serves all young people. By creating safe spaces where young people can have fun and be themselves, its 46 affiliates in 24 states provide affirming, year-round, youth-driven experiences—school day programs, afterschool programs, leadership programs, and camps and outdoor education—that enable youth to develop essential skills that have long-term benefits and make a positive social impact on the world.
For more information please contact:
Erin K Risner, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire National Headquarters, 913.289.4773, firstname.lastname@example.org