March 12

2021 Wander Project Grant Recipients


Wander Project Final Logo color

Wow! What a fantastic year for Wander Project! We can’t believe how much you and your fellow runners were able to fundraise and donate to support the communities where we run. In 2021, over $209,396.85 in grants were awarded to organizations across the country to support a variety of initiatives spanning conservation, sustainability, community wellness, and diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI). 

To all of our Charity Bib athletes, thank you! Your hard work of fundraising has made a huge impact for these organizations. And thank you to all who donated to Wander Project either directly or to support a Charity Bib athlete during their fundraising push. We couldn’t support these organizations without your generous gifts of time and money!

In addition to these awarded grants, Wander Project also had an incredible end of year giving campaign where we received $22,356 in charitable donations to support existing Charity Bib athletes. Of this donation, $19,876 will be granted out to different partners in 2022; the remaining portion will be used by Wander Project to connect athletes to more inspiring projects.

During this end of year giving campaign, 31 new athletes also signed up for Charity Bibs which equates to a $33,000 commitment! And, Vacation Races increased their matched gift to $30,000!

Thank you again, and please read below to learn more about all of the organizations and their respective programs that you helped to support in 2021!

Public Lands Alliance

Public Land Alliance (PLA) is a national nonprofit that works to connect, strengthen, and connect the nonprofit partners of public lands. PLA hosts an annual convention for public lands professionals to gather and share new initiatives, programs, and tools that help protect public lands. PLA regularly offers training, education, and resources to members so that our national public lands can be properly cared for and enjoyed by all.

Wander Project funds were granted and split to support the Essential PLA fund and general, unrestricted support. The Essential PLA fund was started in 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic to ensure the PLA could support vital programs in anticipation of challenging times ahead. Funds not used to support Essential PLA were given, unrestricted, to cover other needs.

Navajo YES

Incorporated in 1995 through the Navajo Nation and the State of Arizona, NavajoYES is a nonprofit organization that promotes health and wellness among the communities and families of the Navajo Nation. The organization hopes to change the health and wellness landscape of the Navajo Nation by leading efforts to establish and promote trails on the reservation, restore and share bikes with families and schools, host athletic events across the reservation, and lead outings for youth and families.

Navajo YES received over $18,000 from funds raised at Trailfest and the Lake Powell Half Marathon to develop the Chuska Mountain Bike Route. This route travels nearly 80 miles from the Red Valley community in the Chuska Mountains to Camp Asaayi and Mexican Springs in New Mexico. The Chuska Mountain range runs along the border of Arizona and New Mexico, and the bike route follows the spine of the mountain range. 

Navajo YES will use funds to improve this route to provide better wayfinding and interpretive signage. The organization also plans to add ramadas for shade, composting toilets, and established campgrounds along the route. 

Such improvements will make the trail more accessible to the community and can encourage folks to get outside and enjoy the physical and mental benefits of outdoor activities. With these initial improvements, the organization hopes that additional trails can be built to reach even more Navajo communities. 

Friends of Saguaro

Friends of Saguaro is the nonprofit fundraising partner of the National Park Service at Tucson's Saguaro National Park. Friends of Saguaro has a variety of initiatives that seek to inspire and engage members of underserved communities in Arizona. From sponsoring no-cost place-based learning at the park to cultivating future environmental leaders through the NextGen Ranger Corps, Friends of Saguaro is committed to making the outdoors an accessible and fun place to be.

In 2021, FOSNP received a $7,000 Wander Project grant to support the NextGen Ranger Corps. The NextGen internship program provides young people with work and learning opportunities at Saguaro National Park. Interns help the park expand research, control invasive species, and maintain trails and other infrastructure. Through this work, interns gain practical fieldwork experience and unique educational opportunities.

Since it first started in 2015, the NextGen program has employed 75 diverse interns, of which, 95% go on to work in environmental fields. Twenty-five of these interns now work for federal land management agencies and an additional twelve work at Saguaro National Park!

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum aims to inspire people to live in harmony with the world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert. The Desert Museum describes itself as a fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium!

While a great place to visit, the museum also actively works to preserve the surrounding land through conservation and research.

Funding from Wander Project will help the museum raise awareness and eradicate the invasive buffelgrass that has taken over the Sonoran Desert. Buffelgrass spreads rapidly, chokes out other native plants, and also makes the landscape more prone to devastating wildfires. This, coupled with an exceptionally dry climate means that the iconic Saguaro cactus is threatened by this invasive grass. The museum plans to use its grant ($2,102.07) to remove tracts of invasive buffelgrass to restore the natural ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert.

Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy in Washington County, Utah helps to protect the wildlife on the Sheep Bridge Nature Preserve. Acquired in 2020, this 419-acre property supports two miles of the Virgin River and is situated near the gateway to Zion National Park. 

The Sheep Bridge Nature Preserve provides aquatic habitat for four of the Virgin River’s at-risk native fish; protects the riparian zone for nesting, wintering, and migrating birds; and helps maintain an oasis-like environment for amphibians, reptiles, and other native species.

Wander Project was able to award $23,520.05 to fund projects that are a priority in safeguarding the wildlife habitat while also allowing the community to responsibly recreate in the area with minimal impact on the environment. 

Yosemite Conservancy

The Yosemite Conservancy is the primary nonprofit partner of Yosemite National Park and its fundraising efforts make up 10% of the park’s annual operating budget. The Conservancy is devoted to protecting and preserving the park for current and future generations. 

Wander Project’s 2021 fundraising efforts contributed $25,000 to support Yosemite Conservancy’s “Restore Legendary Valley Trails” project. Maintained by one of the most experienced trail crews in the country, the team responsible for this project will complete critical repairs on the legendary trails in Yosemite Valley including the Mist Trail, Four Mile Trail, and John Muir Trail. The crew will work to make the trails accessible to those who need full accessibility (including ADA features and stroller access) and to those who want to use the trails for athletic training purposes.

Great Basin K9 SAR (Search and Rescue)

Great Basin K9 Search and Rescue (SAR) is a nonprofit organization whose volunteer team members conduct search and rescue efforts in Summit, Utah, Weber, Morgan, and Salt Lake counties in Utah. Great Basin’s mission is to provide quality training to K9 SAR teams so they can provide no-cost services to public safety organizations in the Intermountain West. 

Great Basin K9 SAR is outfitting multiple K9 units to expand services to Utah and financial support from Wander Project will help outfit a search and rescue team. A full outfit includes:

  • Garmin GPS K9 Collar = $750
  • K9 Safety and Hoisting Vest = $100
  • Handler Harness for helicopter = $150
  • Handler Radio = $200
  • Handler Chest Rig and Backpack = $100+
  • Yearly K9 Seminar Fees = $500
  • GORTEX Team Uniform Jacket = $700

In 2021, Wander Project granted $6,032.50 to help outfit the SAR crew.

Grand Staircase Escalante Partners

Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is committed to safeguarding the future of this beautiful National Monument through science, conservation, and education. 

Support from Wander Project will enable the organization to bolster educational programs with a special focus on the Trail Ambassador and Community Hikes programs. Trail Ambassadors recruits local volunteers from the Monument region and trains them on ways to educate visitors about the unique biodiversity of the National Monument. In recent years, Trail Ambassadors has needed to place special emphasis on low-impact visitation. With an increased number of visitors, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument needs to enhance site clean-up efforts and needs to provide more education to visitors on how they can practice “leave no trace.”

The Community Hikes program offers local families and youth guided hikes that focus on geology, ecology, and anthropology. The purpose of this program is to enhance local appreciation for the land while providing fun activities for the community to participate in.

Grand Teton National Park Foundation

Grand Teton National Park Foundation (GTNPF) funds projects that enhance and protect the national park’s cultural and natural resources. Such projects include the Youth Engagement Initiative, wildlife research conservation, and improvements to trails and historic properties.

The $10,000 grant from Wander Project will be used to sponsor more activities for GTNPF’s Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI). The YEI is largely comprised of five youth programs. These programs use wilderness and work experience to share conservation and sustainability efforts with a variety of diverse young people. Below is a brief description of each YEI program.

  • The Youth Conservation Program employs 16 to 19-year-olds on Grand Teton’s trail crew which allows the crew to accomplish much-needed work while participants learn about park resources and develop conservation ethics. 
  • Tribal Youth Corps provides hands-on opportunities for regional Native youth to connect with nature and cultural history through a month-long paid internship in Grand Teton.
  • Pura Vida introduces local Latinx youth and their family members to recreational opportunities in the Teton region through week-long spring break and summer sessions. 
  • NPS Academy engages diverse college students from across the country in summer internships within the national park system to gain exposure to environmental careers and related job skills. 
  • Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassador Program offers ongoing career development to young professionals who are launching park-focused programming in their home cities. 

West Yellowstone Foundation

West Yellowstone Foundation (WYF) focuses on six areas to strengthen the sense of community in the region: Natural Resources and Conservation, Historic Preservation, Arts and Culture, Basic Human Needs, Education, and Economic Development. 

The $5,000 grant will allow WYF to distribute funds to four community programs:

  • Heritage Park which supports a wild trout exhibit at the Yellowstone Historic Center 
  • Bob Jacklin Casting Pond is a casting pond where local fly fishermen provide casting lessons. Funds will support routine maintenance of the pond.
  • GreenUp West Yellowstone promotes a more sustainable West Yellowstone by sharing resources that educate and cultivate relationships with community members
  • Smoking Waters is a summer day camp for youth with a focus on outdoor recreation

Glacier National Park Conservancy

Two Dog Flats are beautiful mountain meadows that are a valuable source of food for wildlife, not to mention, they are incredibly beautiful! Unfortunately, the meadows are very close to the heavily trafficked Going-to-the-Sun Road which means that non-native plants from visiting vehicles are often transferred to the meadow where they can choke out native species. 

The Conservancy is looking for more effective and safe ways to eliminate non-native plants, and funding from Wander Project will allow the Glacier NP Conservancy to conduct research on the effect of herbicides on plants in Two Dog Flats. Results from the research will allow park managers to determine the best restoration strategies to maintain a healthy grassland ecosystem.

Wander Project donated $7,500 to support this research.

Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance

Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance is a conservation organization located on the Blackfeet Reservation. The Alliance’s primary focus is on preserving Badger-Two Medicine, the land between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. This land is vital habitat for large animals like grizzly bears, lynx, mountain goats, and elk along with a plethora of smaller species and diverse plants. The land is also sacred to the Blackfeet people and is important for the preservation of their cultural homeland and origin story.

The $4,000 grant will enable Glacier-Two Medicine to support a “Blackfeet Community Organizer” who can help connect, engage, and mobilize the community toward the permanent protection of Badger-Two Medicine. The organizer will allow the Alliance to work closely with Blackfeet tribal leadership and members to elevate Blackfeet voices, knowledge, and perspectives to smartly craft conservation efforts.

Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation

Support for the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation will allow them to fund two programs: the “Care Van” and an in-school mental health counseling initiative.

The Care Van provides healthcare transportation for anyone in need. The van is equipped with an ADA wheelchair lift and serves the greater Enumclaw Plateau. Those who use the van are able to get transportation to doctor appointments, physical therapy, mental health counseling, prescription pick-up, and other health and therapeutic appointments.

According to both Seattle Children's Hospital and RFWF's community needs assessment, the greatest need among local students is easily accessible mental health support. The in-school mental health counseling initiative helps to meet this need. The initiative provides licensed mental health counselors to each of Enumclaw School District’s secondary schools. Counseling is available onsite and during school hours to eliminate the transportation barrier that so many students face. 

Wander Project was able to donate $695 to help support the Care Van.

Rocky Mountain Conservancy

The Rocky Mountain Conservancy is the nonprofit partner of Rocky Mountain National Park. Its mission is to provide philanthropic and programmatic support to RMNP and surrounding public lands.

Funding would be used to rebuild popular hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park that were destroyed during the 2021 fire season. Combined, the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires burned approximately 30,000 acres in Rocky Mountain National Park. In this burn, Fern Lake Trail was badly damaged, and the Green Mountain Trail was completely destroyed and now must be redesigned and rebuilt from scratch. The Wander Project grant ($3,605.33) will support efforts to rebuild these trails and will provide additional trail refurbishment in burn-impacted areas. 

Friends of the Smokies

Friends of the Smokies helps the national park serve its mission to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains. Each year, the park provides Friends of the Smokies with a “needs” list which details where the park needs additional support beyond federal funding. 

Recently additional preservation has been needed around Cades Cove, the popular route that visitors can drive through the park. Funding provided through the Wander Project grant ($5,109.70) will allow Friends of the Smokies to fund the Cades Cove Historic Field Restoration project. This project removes woody debris from the forest floor and ultimately will allow the reintroduction of native forbs and grasses.

Mount Rushmore Society

The Mount Rushmore Society sponsors several youth education programs within the park, and it has been preserving the legacy of Mount Rushmore for over 90 years.

Support from Wander Project will allow the Mount Rushmore Society to continue its youth education projects. A portion of the funds will be used to provide bus transportation for school groups to visit the park, and the remaining funds will go toward the Junior Ranger Program. The Junior Ranger Program is free at Mount Rushmore and offers programming to three different age groups. The programming helps kids (and adults) explore the park and learn about the history of the memorial, natural resources in the park, and how the land is protected and preserved.

Wander Project awarded a grant for $3,000 to secure bus transportation, and $11,540.71 for the Junior Ranger Program.

Joshua Tree National Park Association

Joshua Tree National Park Association supports programming at the park to bring valuable and educational experiences to the community.

Wander Project funds ($5,000) are used to cover some of the costs associated with one of the association’s popular Desert Institute field days, “You and Me in Joshua Tree.” This program is a partnership with Latino Outdoors and allows participants (primarily Latino youth in under-served communities) to experience Joshua Tree first hand through guided hikes, native plant studies, historical tours and lectures, Native-led walks around the Oasis of Ma’ara, and more! 

Friends of Joshua Tree

As the primary fundraising partner of Joshua Tree Search and Rescue, Friends of Joshua Tree wants to make sure that current and future generations of climbers and visitors can safely and responsibly enjoy the park. 

To support these safety initiatives, a Wander Project grant of $4,942.94 will be used to replace outdated equipment for the search and rescue team. 


Charity, Charity Partner, Community, Giving, Grants, Wander Project

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