NORWAY — The Maine West initiative challenges people across the Oxford Hills, greater Bethel, and River Valley areas to earn cash rewards for local youth programs by getting outside for healthy outdoor activities during the upcoming school vacation week.

Starting Saturday, Feb. 17, people can sign up for the Second Nature Adventure Challenge and start tracking all types of outdoor recreation activities — from skiing and snowshoeing to ice skating, sledding and walking. If area residents sign on and track 500 activities between Feb. 17-25, Maine West will contribute $3,000 to help local groups increase opportunities for kids to get outside by organizing outings, providing outdoor gear, and other efforts, according to a news release from Brendan Schauffler, facilitator of the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative and program coordinator for the challenge.

Over the past two years, more than 1,000 people have teamed up to complete over 2,500 outdoor activities and secure over $20,000 in community reward funding for food pantries and local after school programs in Western Maine. Past program beneficiaries have included Destination Paris, Mahoosuc Kids Association, Bethel Recreation Department, Oxford Hills Outing Club/Bill Koch League, Western Foothills Kids Association, Agnes Gray Elementary School Food Pantry, Bethel Food Pantry, and Servant’s Heart Food Pantry in Peru.

Beneficiaries of the 2024 Winter Second Nature Challenge will each receive at least $1,000 in contributions if Maine West area residents sign on and log at least 500 activities as part of the challenge. This year’s beneficiaries include Bethel Area: Woodstock Elementary School; Oxford Hills: School Administrative District 17 Pre-K students; and River Valley: Chisholm Ski Club.

“At Woodstock Elementary School, we are committed to building resiliency so that children acquire the skills to recover from setbacks and bounce back from adversity,” said Beth Clarke, principal of Woodstock Elementary School. “We build resiliency by providing supportive and caring relationships, high expectations, and opportunities for students to connect with their natural surroundings. Being a beneficiary of the winter Second Nature Adventure Challenge will allow all our children, kindergarten through grade five, access to our Buck’s Ledge Community Forest in the winter months.”

“Funding from the Second Nature Adventure Challenge will help us continue to connect River Valley youth to skiing and snowboarding opportunities,” said Roger Arsenault, a board member of the Chisholm Ski Club.

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