"ICO totally transformed my life."
Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) Rafting takes people down the river who would not otherwise have the opportunity. Along the way, participants overcome fear, work together, and are able to explore the environment and their role in the natural world. Many come back to train with us to become whitewater guides, gaining confidence and leadership skills, and learning about environmental ethics.
For example, Josh was 13, attending an Oakland high school, when he took his first rafting trip with ICO. He loved it so much that he applied to become a whitewater rafting guide. That next spring we trained him to guide a raft, and for the next seven years he spent many of his summer weekends taking people down the river. Due in part to the trainings, mentors, and friends he met in ICO, not only did he become a great guide, he learned leadership, emergency response, and how to deal with lots of different kinds of people. Josh says that, "from rafting, wilderness first aid, and swift water rescue training, I made the leap into rescue work, and later into the emergency department as an RN, and ultimately became a Family Nurse Practitioner/Nurse Educator. ICO totally transformed my life."
ICO Rafting is an all-volunteer outreach program of the Sierra Club. We provide rafting trips for people in the San Francisco Bay Area—most participants are young people from urban communities, but we also conduct trips for other groups that would not have access to river activities.
ICO Rafting grew out of the first ICO chapter. In 1971, Madelyn Pyeatt, a teacher at Oakland Tech High School, joined other volunteers to establish the first Sierra Club Inner City Outings (ICO) program. Her Oakland Tech Trails Club provided compass and ropes courses—and backpacking and snow camping trips—for youth willing to do the planning and logistics. Madelyn taught youth leadership and environmental ethics through the club's activities, and spawned generations of ICO volunteers. They eventually started going on commercial raft trips and, in 1979, some ICO leaders became trained as whitewater guides. Since then, ICO Rafting has taken over 10,000 people whitewater rafting.
ICO Rafting receives no money from the Sierra Club. The volunteers raise all of the funds we spend every year through personal donations and by putting on fundraising bake sales, dinners, and river trips. We use the money for raft rental, equipment, training, and assisting participant groups. To support our rafting program, please click on Donate, above. If you'd like to volunteer, check out the Get Involved tab.