Why You Should Volunteer with HEBFF Outdoor


In May, the Communications team went to the Canyon to pitch in for a school retreat with HEBFF Outdoor. The experience was eye-opening on several levels, and now that the Foundation is offering everyone on staff a chance to become an official HEBFF Outdoor Volunteer, you can have your eyes opened, too—to a part of the Foundation’s work you may have never witnessed in person, to the amazing machine that is the Outdoor team, and most of all, to the joy everyday kids in Texas experience when they come to the Canyon for the first time.

One of the things I got to do while volunteering is teach bike riding. I was pretty nervous about being asked to do this. I like riding bikes, but I’ve never been very good at teaching others to ride. And by “others” I mean my own kids. And by “my own kids” I mean my two girls, both of whom were pretty nervous early riders and required lots of patience. I know you’re supposed to have grand, beautiful memories of teaching your kids to ride bikes, but in my case I remember being rattled, stressed, and certain that I should not be teaching anyone to ride a bike anytime soon.

As it turns out, I was just doing it wrong. (Sorry, kids!) At some Outdoor retreats, the biking activity is led by Michael Olstad, a former educator from Seguin who also happens to be a former professional cyclist. Michael taught me how to teach kids to ride—you don’t hold them upright and teach them to pedal; you teach them to push off the ground with both feet and balance themselves while coasting, without worrying about the pedals at all. Once they can coast and balance, pedaling becomes easy.

My kids were around 5 years old when they learned to ride bikes. These kids were 9, 10, 11 years old. Some of them had never been on a bicycle before. They were at least as nervous as I was. I’m pretty sure a couple of them wanted nothing to do with the bikes initially. But time after time, within 30 minutes, they were riding around the field, beaming from ear to ear. I was beaming, too—and wiping a tear or two. Giving those kids joy gave me great joy in turn.

There’s lots more to do at Outdoor retreats, from helping lead a hike to directing some geocaching to just sitting and talking to kids. I definitely encourage everyone to get permission from your manager, and then reach out to Liz Hoyer (lhoyer@hebff.org) to sign up for volunteering. You’ll be glad you did.