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When I was a kid, I went on a lot of nature walks with my mom.

We lived in the country in Central Texas and had a little plot of woods all to ourselves. We walked around big, ancient oaks and twisted, gnarly mesquite trees. Sometimes, we'd find a tree covered in big, ropey mustang grapevines and I'd climb up into the trees, pretending I was in the Swiss Family Robinson.

Other times, we went looking for animals. My favorites were the green anole lizards that lived on trees and flashed their red neck flaps at you.


Technically, it's called a dewlap, thank you very much. Photo from R. Colin Blenis/Wikimedia Commons.

There were also tiny black-and-white beetles with rock-hard shells that lived on fallen logs. If you touched them, they played dead until they thought you were gone. And sometimes we even saw deer.

Nature walks are a good way for families to bond. And they're pretty healthy too.

Science shows that spending just a little time outside (walking, looking at the trees, or even catching Pokemon!) can be good for you — it reduces blood pressure and improves mental health. There are even studies that suggest spending time in nature together can help families get along.

But here's the problem: Not everyone has access to nature, even (and especially) in rural areas.


Does this count as nature? Not really. Scott Olsen/Getty Images.

It's easy to imagine how someone living in downtown Chicago might struggle to find nature. But living outside a city doesn't guarantee access to trails and forests, either.

For example, imagine living in farm country. Though you're definitely not in the city, miles and miles of corn fields are just as much an artificial creation as any apartment building (plus the farmers probably wouldn't be happy with you trying to picnic in the middle of their fields).

This is actually a significant problem, so two researchers (University of Illinois professor Ramona Oswald and doctoral student Dina Izenstark) recently examined the lack of nature access in rural America. They found that although a lot of parents may know how great a nature walk can be for both your mood and your body, long distances or costs keep them from getting their families into nature.

“The moms in this study know about health and what to do to be healthy,” Oswald said in a press release. “It’s not a lack of education. It has to do with barriers and access to resources."

But what if we could erase these barriers? Enter the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit that's giving people access to nature in a cool way: by reviving old railway lines.

Photo via Rails-to-Trails Conservancy/Eric Oberg, used with permission.

You see, the United States is criss-crossed with old railway lines.

Photo via iStock.

Many of them are still in use, but many have been abandoned.


Photo via iStock.

But just because they're abandoned doesn't mean they can't still be useful.

These abandoned lines can have new life breathed into them. Take the Cardinal Greenway in central and eastern Indiana.

Way back in 1993, the nonprofit Cardinal Greenways bought 60 miles of abandoned railroad in eastern Indiana and, after teaming up with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy for logistical help, began the hard work of turning it into a nature trail. (Rails-to-Trails support projects all across the United States.)

Photo from Cardinal Greenways, used with permission.

Tearing up a big metal railroad to make a nature trail might seem like a lot of work. But the railroad is already set up for nature walking success.

Most railroad tracks are already built up off the ground (so they don't flood), and they can support a lot of weight. Even better, trees don't grow on railroad tracks, so there's less vegetation to cut back to make a trail.

Cardinal Greenways' first 10-mile stretch opened in 1998.

They also added updated features like new bridges, benches, and informational signs.

Photo from Cardinal Greenways, used with permission.

There is also a playground and exercise equipment. You can even borrow a bike. It's free, too. Cardinal Greenways relies on volunteers and donations to maintain and expand the trail.

Today, the Cardinal Greenway runs for 62 miles, winding through more than 10 small towns as well as nature preserves and parks.

Photo from Cardinal Greenways, used with permission.

Families can walk or bicycle it, giving them easy access to nature and a safe place to exercise, no matter whether they're urban or rural.

A lot of different places have hit on replacing old railway lines with nature trails. Chicagoans might recognize the Bloomingdale Trail, for instance.

Photo from Victor Grigas/Wikimedia Commons.

The Bloomingdale Trail is a greenway that runs for about three miles in Northwest Chicago. You might never guess it used to be an old elevated train line.

In fact, your favorite running trail may have started its life as a railroad track. The Gloucester Township Trail in New Jersey, the Shelby Farms Greenline in Tennessee, and Mississippi's Tanglefoot Trail all started as old train lines, too.

Projects like this give both urban and rural families access to nature — using resources we already have.

Nature walks with my mom are some of my fondest childhood memories, and I'm sure those walks are part of the reason I'm still in love with nature today.

It's awesome to see projects like this making sure everyone has access to those memories like I did.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

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