Camping and Mentoring Initiative Gets Grant to Expand Reach

Keith Cradle PhD, Founder of Camping with Cradle (right) with Damon Gause (left) and CWC Chairman of the Board Marc Fuller.

Bundle up for camping with the Cradle Winter Experience.

The nonprofit mentorship program, which uses the outdoors to teach young people life skills, received its first grant from the City of Charlotte – $ 1,000 from the JumpStart Community Safety Micro-Grant Project to create a winter camping. The grant funds small programming grants to community organizations dealing with conflict resolution and mediation, crime prevention and control, family stability and racial disparities.

The funding is to be used up by December 31, and beneficiaries also receive capacity building support and training through the city and its affiliates.

The 12-person trip will take place the first weekend in December at Hanging Rock State Park. The trips were designed around car camping, hiking and now a cabin stay experience. Founder and Executive Director Keith Cradle PhD said the North Carolina weather makes it possible to camp all year round depending on the type of experience people want. He wanted to create a winter experience to show children that they can still enjoy the outdoors even when the temperature changes.

As Cradle spent more time exploring North Carolina state parks last year, he wanted to share what the outdoors had to offer marginalized youth. Camping with Cradle began in June, guiding four boys ages 12 to 14 through Morrow Mountain State Park. The first year of Camping with Cradle is going better than expected. The intention was to launch in the summer of 2021 or 2022, if the pandemic permits.

Five trips have taken place, and Cradle remembers thinking that one or two would be a victory. Now he’s wondering if he’s doing enough.

“You think, ‘I’m going to do a few,” said Cradle, who is the director of youth / minor services for the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office Daily. “You’ve got one under your belt and you’re like ‘oh my God.’ Then you keep doing it. Now I feel like ‘am I doing enough?’ maybe the worker bee in me. Everyone tells me that I am exactly where we need to be and not to overtake myself too quickly. This is the challenge that I am setting myself. ”

Cradle is hoping that the winter camping will serve as a bookends for the program, with future Camping with Cradle calendars running from April / May to December.

“This year has been so much trial and error with a lot of effort, but it has happened so organically and quite quickly,” he said. “I’m not only surprised, but I also believe in the power of our community and if you get down to business and have good people supporting you, it just happens.”


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