Knoxville ICO Award

Knoxville ICO gets award from Big Brothers & Big Sisters of East Tennessee

On Friday evening, March 24, 2023 Big Brothers and Big Sisters of East Tennessee (BBBS) presented Knoxville Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) with the Vivian A. Gwinn Community Partner Award at their Big Night Out banquet. This award recognizes the long partnership between the Knoxville ICO and BBBS for providing educational, fun, and safe outings for the youth they serve in order to explore the natural world.

Our first outing together was in June 2014 when we introduced around 15 pairs of mentor/youth-matches to the famous synchronous fireflies at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since then we have had outings nearly monthly. These outings include canoeing, monarch butterfly tagging, pond explorations, wild flower and waterfall hikes, white water rafting, bicycling, disc golf, overnight camping, picnics, and more.

For the award presentation BBBS prepared a video that includes interview of BBBS participants and ICO volunteers. This video can be viewed at We greatly value our partnership with BBBS and their dedication to encouraging their matches to go out and actively enjoy nature with us. For more information about the Knoxville ICO see

Awards photo

For a Sierra Club program dedicated to getting youth outdoors, regardless of the potential of getting muddy or wet while having fun, we had some struggles with the dress code – semi-formal – for the BBBS Big Night Out banquet. This photo catches us in a rare moment. Photo provided by BBBS.

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