The self-identified fat, queer hiker challenging what it means to be an outdoor person.

Jenny Bruso's foray into the great outdoors started in an unlikely way — she was just trying to impress her partner on one of their first dates.

It was 2012, and the pair took a hike through Portland's Forest Park. Bruso, who identifies as fat, femme, queer, and a former "indoor kid," was curious about the hobby her partner enjoyed and also wanted to seem outdoorsy and game for a good time. While her first hike was challenging, she says it opened up something inside her she couldn't ignore.

"Something kind of magical happened, and I found that there was this part of me that was very intrigued by it and enjoyed it, and I wanted to do more of it."


Still, Bruso was intimidated by the process, worried she didn't know what she was doing, how slow she was on the trail, or how hard she was breathing. But despite her anxieties, she kept going back.

Photo via Jenny Bruso, used with permission.

But as Bruso found herself hiking more and more, she noticed something missing on the trail — diversity.

She simply didn't encounter many people of color, with larger bodies, with disabilities, or anyone identifying as queer or gender-nonconforming. And she didn't find them in the outdoor social media accounts she followed either.

"I was just really sort of disappointed and bowled over at times how [outdoor social media accounts] were constantly featuring many thin, young, white people doing these extreme things but looking sort of effortless like they were airlifted in there," she says. "I was just kind of calling bullshit on it. This is so not what it's like for me out there."

Photo via Jenny Bruso, used with permission.

Hiking provided clarity and balance for Bruso. She wanted to connect with others who may have felt the same way, but didn't feel like they fit in with the online outdoor community. She started a blog, calling herself an "Unlikely Hiker." Before long, hikers of all stripes came forward and said, "Me too."

Bruso's "Unlikely Hikers" has now expanded into an Instagram account, Facebook page, and hashtag that other traditionally underrepresented hikers use to connect.

Anyone who may not fit the expected look or identity of a typically outdoorsy person, anyone who's found their place in nature, healed their body and mind on the trail, or really anyone who sees themselves as an Unlikely Hiker is welcome.  

Fans submit their stories and photos by tagging them #UnlikelyHiker on Instagram, and Bruso shares them with her nearly 20,000 followers.

From local treks or more epic journeys along the Pacific Crest Trail, Bruso's hashtag has helped draw together hikers of all abilities — along with  swimmers, climbers, and other outdoor (supposedly unlikely) adventurers.

The stories and photos are powerful, filled with moments of healing, survival, and peace found while getting back to nature. Unlikely Hikers is a celebration of community-building and persistence.

"I started hiking a few years ago after horseback riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains for the first time & realizing how much you can really miss out on if you're just sticking to the road on a roadtrip. The experiences & memories you gain exploring new places are so much more intimate while on the trail. Being queer, fat, & also battling chronic autoimmune conditions + chronic pain, I face quite a few challenges, but mother nature embraces us completely as we are. Following communities of other unlikely hikers has really been SO inspiring. I'm in the process of planning my first backpacking trip and couldn't be more excited to start my thru-hiking adventures!" -Aura / @adventurousaura • Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured!

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Because everyone belongs in the great outdoors. That's what makes it so great.

It doesn't matter your skill or ability or size or what you look like: Nature is a place where anyone can find solace, peace, and a fresh perspective. It can be life-changing and awe-inspiring, and no one should have to miss out because they feel uncomfortable. If you're worried or intimidated about going on a hike, Bruso suggests facing your fear and getting out there anyway.

"Don't let the fear of what other people might be thinking stop you because what you might find out there is so much bigger than that, and you deserve it. We all deserve it."

via The Today Show

Michael and Jack McConnell will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on September 3rd and it won't only be a big moment for them, it'll be a landmark for the entire gay rights movement.

The couple was legally married 32 years before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 and 43 before it became federally legal in 2015.

How did they do it? They outsmarted a system that wasn't prepared to address same-sex marriage.

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via The Today Show

Michael and Jack McConnell will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on September 3rd and it won't only be a big moment for them, it'll be a landmark for the entire gay rights movement.

The couple was legally married 32 years before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 and 43 before it became federally legal in 2015.

How did they do it? They outsmarted a system that wasn't prepared to address same-sex marriage.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If you've ever donated to a cause but worried that your contribution wasn't really enough to drive real change, you're not alone. As one person, it can be tough to feel like you're making a real difference, especially if you don't have a lot to donate or if times are tough (aka there's a worldwide pandemic going on.)

That's why, for years, the idea of philanthropy felt a little bit like a rich person's thing: if you had millions, you could donate and make change. The rest of us were just tossing pennies into a cup without really doing much.

But that's a problem: the priorities of a wealthy few don't represent the priorities of many, which means that good causes are often left underfunded, leading to a lack of meaningful action.

The thing is: it doesn't have to be like this. We can all make a difference, especially if we pool our money together.

Enter: Giving Circles. These are when groups of people with shared values come together to drive change. They do it by pooling their time and money together, then deciding as a circle where it should go. That way, they can cause a real targeted change in one place quickly in a very people-powered way by giving what they can, whether that's volunteer hours, money, or a mix of both. Best of all, Giving Circles are a social experience — you get to work together as a community to make sure you do the most good you can.

In other words, giving circles are a way to democratize philanthropy, making it more accessible regardless of your age, income, gender, or race.

That's why this year, The Elevate Prize, a nonprofit founded in 2019, is launching a new pop-up "Giving Circle" program so that problem solvers, budding philanthropists, and anyone that wants to do good can come together and drive real impact at a large scale. And you can do it all in just 90 minutes.

All you have to do is join one of the Elevate Giving Circles online. Learn about organizations doing good for the world, then pool your money together, and as a group, direct it where you think that donation could make the most difference.

But that's not all: every single donation made is matched by the Elevate Prize Foundation — basically guaranteeing that you double your impact for good. The theme for the first cycle is education, and Elevate Giving will match up to $75,000 in total donations for each cycle.

Ready to get involved? Elevate Giving experiences start June 26th, so sign up now for your spot to make a difference. There's no minimum fee to join either — so get involved no matter what you have to give. Now that's philanthropy for all.