Letha’s Youth Outdoors Fund
Letha’s Fund supports trips for school and youth groups to experience nature in an educational context. It also supports youth-initiated activities that bring them in closer contact with nature. Preferred groups are those with the least access to experiences in the natural environment.
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Since its inception in 2008, Letha’s Fund has enabled nearly 7,000 youth to visit environmental education centers, nature preserves, and parks under the guidance of trained specialists and enthusiastic volunteers. We have awarded funding to not just school groups, but also non-profit groups, including a group in Gary that took inner city children to visit the Indiana Dunes for the first time.
The Fund has also supported projects such as a Girl Scout troop’s garlic mustard eradication project, the development of school yard environmental sites, the planting and support of a butterfly garden for kindergarteners at a community center, and an experience in the woods for handicapped youth.
The Youth Outreach Committee has plans to increase the number of youth served. With school funding for field trips drastically reduced, this goal is now doubly important.
Donate to Letha’s Fund
We invite you to consider a generous donation to Letha’s Fund to help spark the love of the natural world in our youth. Or choose one of these other ways to help: volunteer as a naturalist guide, spread the word about the Fund, or serve on the Youth Outreach Committee.
To make a donation via land mail, mail a check to: INPAWS, Attn: Letha’s Fund, PO Box 501528, Indianapolis, IN 46250. In the memo line of your check, designate it for “Letha’s Fund.”
How the Fund Works
Letha’s Fund provides financial assistance to school-age children and youth groups for field trips to nature sites or projects that engender excitement about the natural world. Grants are intended to:
- Help with transportation costs and/or naturalist fees where funds are limited.
- Promote youth-initiated projects/activities that connect kids with nature.
The Fund is available state-wide. Teachers/leaders may select nature sites suitable to their location and situation. To minimize transportation costs, applicants are encouraged to select nearby nature sites suitable to their program. Natural sites visited so far include Merry Lea Environmental Education Center, Sycamore Land Trust preserves, Marian College EcoLab, Holliday Park, Bradford Woods, Eagle Creek Environmental Education Center, Bean Blossom Creek and Bottoms, Lake Monroe Dam, Leonard Springs Nature Park, Turkey Run State Park, Southeastway Park, and more.
The expectation is that the applicant will arrange for environmental educators/naturalists or experienced leaders to conduct the hikes and instruct the students. Programs that incorporate the importance of native plants and the impacts of invasive plants will be given higher priority.
An example of a youth-initiated project: Following a Girl Scout activity to reclaim some natural woodlands, the troop became aware of widespread neighborhood infestations of garlic mustard. Empowered by their experience and knowledge, they wished to embark on a community awareness campaign. They authored a poem, “Beware the Garlic Mustard Plant!” With support from Letha’s Fund, the Scouts were able to create, print, and fold 600 copies of a brochure to distribute in affected neighborhoods.
INPAWS does NOT provide or arrange the transportation but will reimburse at cost the transportation arranged through school transportation systems or local transit. In the interest of stretching donated dollars, we request that driver/bus charges be based on direct costs (the driver hourly pay, bus mileage). Approved expenses are reimbursed upon receipt of invoices after the trip/project has occurred.
Apply to Letha’s Fund
Who can apply: Any teacher, youth leader, or youth group in Indiana can apply to Letha’s Fund. There are no deadlines; grants are awarded to appropriate projects as long as funds are available.
What we fund: Letha’s Fund awards grants for (1) trips (bus driver, gas, naturalist) to stimulating natural sites (preserves, environmental centers) that will give youth a meaningful exposure to native plants, habitats, and the chain of life; and (2) youth-involved projects that give hands-on exposure to creating or sustaining natural habitats. We do not fund picnics, food, or chaperones.
To apply for assistance, complete and save the application form. Then email it (preferred) to email@example.com, or mail to INPAWS, Attn: Letha’s Fund Application, P.O. Box 501528, Indianapolis, IN 46250.
Turnaround time: Applicants will receive a response to the application in about two to three weeks if submitted by email. Allow one month response time if submitted by mail.
Evaluation/reporting: Upon completion of the project, grantees must fill out a Grant Report Form and submit copies of any post-trip activities that measure the success of the trip, such as photos, drawings, writings, or a summary report.
Questions and correspondence for Letha’s Fund should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Letha Queisser
More than 20 years ago, trained botanist and avid wildflower fan Letha Queisser began taking neighborhood children on “nature walks” to a nearby Indianapolis park.
Together they skipped rocks in the creek, picked up sticks, checked under rocks, and searched for wildflowers. With jelly beans as incentives, eager children began to identify the plants, matching their colors with those of the sought-after jelly beans. Soon Letha was taking Scout troops and nearby school classes to the park. She became known as Indiana’s Wildflower Lady.
Following her death in 2007, Letha’s family and friends honored her with donations to INPAWS, of which she was a member. Remembering how she tried to connect children with the natural world, INPAWS used those donations to establish Letha’s Youth Outdoors Fund.
Contributions to Letha’s Fund are gratefully accepted.