FREEPORT — L.L. Bean on Tuesday donated $1 million to help fund ways for young people to get outside and exercise.
The company’s donation to Healthy Hometowns will expand the now-seasonal programs at the Caribou-based Maine Winter Sports Center throughout the year.
The donation also expands the program from 100 locations in Maine to 400, said Andy Shepard, president and chief executive of the Maine Winter Sports Center.
Shepard said the donation will allow the 13-year-old sports center to meet some fundamental goals.
“No child should graduate high school without being able to make a decent J-stroke in a canoe, do a self-recovery in a kayak or change a bike derailleur in the field,” he said.
Shepard said center was created to fight child obesity, a theme Bean Chief Marketing Officer Steve Fuller said fits in well with the company’s legacy and mission.
Shepard and Fuller were joined by Olympic gold medalists Joan Benoit Samuelson and Seth Wescott for the announcement of the donation, but the ultimate benefits of expanding into Healthy Hometowns were explained by two educators who help lead outdoor education programs.
“It is easy to brag about what you believe in,” said Tammi Matula, a teacher at East Grand School in Danforth, south of Houlton.
Matula said Maine Winter Sports Center has provided resources, equipment and support for a terrain park and trails at the school that have helped children and their parents get more active.
Vicente is a social worker who has worked with middle school students in Regional School Unit 5, comprised of Freeport, Durham and Pownal.
She said expanding the outdoor programs will help in an economy where both parents are often busy working.
“It is bringing access back for all families to engage in,” she said.
Vicente added the outdoor education programs develop team and leadership skills students will use after they graduate.
After the announcement, children were invited to a series of free activities, including archery, fly-fishing, geocaching and a scavenger hunt and hike at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal.
“Keep pushing your kids to get outside,” Wescott urged parents before leading the hike.
Matthew Moreau, 10, of Falmouth, draws a bead on a target as part of L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Schools activities Tuesday. The company donated $1 million to Healthy Hometowns to fund the expansion of programs by the Maine Winter Sports Center into full-year activities throughout the state.
While aiming for a Hula-Hoop instead of water, Leigha Coughtrie of Bath tries flycasting at L.L. Bean on Tuesday in Freeport.