Chicago Inspiring Connections Outdoors is part of National Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO), an outreach program of the Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club San Francisco Bay chapter established the first ICO group in 1971. Today, a dedicated core of volunteer leaders located in approximately 50 cities across the United States work with local social service agencies and schools to provide wilderness experiences for people who otherwise might not have them.
Actively engage people in the outdoors through outdoor activities, including backpacking, car camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, rafting, service projects, skating, skiing, sledding, etc
Promote appreciation and protection of the natural environment through outdoor adventures and environmental education;
Create opportunities through outdoor experiences for personal growth and life style change, outdoor skills and leadership development; and foster respect of self, others, and the environment.
With the guidance of ICO volunteer leaders, participants discover the beauty of wild lands and how to enjoy these places without harming them. We hope to empower young people to feel ownership and a sense of belonging in outdoor public spaces, learn valuable skills and gain self-esteem as a natural result of teamwork and an active relationship with the outdoors.
ICO does its own fundraising to provide these activities at little or no cost to the participants.
We strive to provide a fun, safe and engaging outdoor experiences for youth participants. We teach skills and share stories to change the narrative about who belongs in outdoor spaces and empower youth to explore new places in the Chicago area and beyond, either with us or on a return trip with their friends, family or classmates.
"[On my trip] we were restoring trails….and it was a huge accomplishment when we were done. I feel that this experience changed my life because now I am more interested in wilderness and want to preserve it. It is going to be up to my generation to preserve it for the future."
—Leopaldo Hernandez, Chicago ICO participant
Who are our partners?
ICO partners are schools and community organizations in the Chicago area that are interested in working with us to get youth outdoors. ICO covers most or all costs associated with outings. If you’re interested in learning more about partnering with ICO, email chicagoICO@gmail.com.
Check out this video about Leo's Chicago ICO and National Outings trip experiences!
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