Nonprofit Spotlight: Protect Our Rivers

Nonprofit Spotlight: Protect Our Rivers

During the month of April Outdoor Prolink is proud to have Protect Our Rivers as our featured nonprofit during checkout. Every year, Outdoor Prolink partners with nonprofits to give back to organizations we align with. To honor these amazing nonprofits, we’re spotlighting each one and sharing why you should care about their missions too.

Protect Our Rivers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving natural river ecosystems. Through hands-on experiences like river cleanups, river trips, and interactive education programs, the organization provides opportunities for people to learn and connect with waterways, ultimately inspiring them to care and take action. In this Q&A blog post, we had the opportunity to chat with Sarah Nelson, Protect Our Rivers’ Founder & Executive Director, about the organization’s initiatives and how people can get involved to support their mission.

What’s the story behind Protect Our Rivers?

Since I can remember, my dream has been to do something meaningful that inspires positive change and gives back, specifically to the outdoors. Before Protect Our Rivers, I ran marketing for Good River Beer. In October, we got invited to join one of our brand partners, Downriver Equipment, on a Cataract Canyon river trip to explore over 100 miles of the Colorado River.

Rivers weren’t brand new to me, but I have never experienced anything quite like that trip. I was in awe of the magic of the river and the way everyone came together to live and support each other for six days. And the pride and respect river runners have for rivers and the surrounding ecosystem is beyond anything I’ve ever known.

That trip really inspired me and made me think about getting involved or starting a new river-focused nonprofit organization. When we returned, my husband and I faced some unexpected challenges that rocked us. We both got laid off, and at the same time, we lost my dad to cancer at age 63.

Losing a father really hits home that life is too short, so spend it doing what you love and with who you love. So, I reached out to those who is now our founding board members, and they eagerly jumped on board to start to Protect Our Rivers with me. Just like me, rivers have changed the trajectory of their lives in incredible ways.

Nonprofit Spotlight: Protect Our Rivers - Rafters cleaning up Denver, CO near Elitch Gardens

What makes Protect Our Rivers unique/sets the organization apart?

  1. Our belief system & grassroots approach: Everyone has the power to make a difference, and that difference matters. Underneath all the environmental issues we face and the daunting backdrop of global climate change, we as individuals can take small steps that add up to benefit the future of our rivers. We’re not screwed, people do things every day that help the outdoors and our waterways.
  1. Hands-on approach: Protect Our Rivers provides opportunities for people to learn and help rivers through hands-on experiences like river cleanups, river trips, and interactive education programs. These programs connect people to waterways, which is the most important piece of our grassroots movement. If you don’t care about something or understand it, you likely won’t make an effort to protect it. Our river cleanup events give people a chance to care. They serve as an entry point that exposes people to rivers and the outdoor community – and allows them to appreciate rivers on their own. We believe that when you learn to love something, you will actively work to protect it…forever.

What are some upcoming initiatives Protect Our Rivers is working on?

There are some exciting things in the works for Protect Our Rivers in 2024:

  1. National Expansion: Protect Our Rivers is expanding river cleanups into two new states this year; Arizona and Tampa thanks to Ball Corporation. Our goal is to have river cleanups in every state in the next five years!
  2. Access Program: Protect Our Rivers is launching a program that provides underprivileged and at risk youth opportunities to get on the river. We’re developing the program because we believe that everyone deserves the chance to experience the beauty, serenity, and adventure rivers provide us all. We are test piloting this spring and have plans to officially launch the program in late summer of 2024. 
  3. Short Feature Film: A film maker approached me about a short feature film that follows my journey and some pivotal points that led to Protect Our Rivers. I think this story serves as a beacon of hope in this era of climate change despair that can be so debilitating when it comes to  believing that small actions matter.  And while this film is not about Protect Our Rivers, they have helped support the production of the film. Protect Our Rivers will also help promote and distribute it to amplify the message that everyone has the power to do something today to make a positive impact on our rivers.

People in the outdoor industry can support us by:

  1. Become a Member: Protecting our rivers is an important message the world needs to see and believe. For $25 you can help us share that message and support our two main goals: (1) cleaning up rivers in desperate need and (2) getting more kids to fall in love with rivers so they learn to protect them. 
  2. Join a Cleanup: We have 30+ river cleanups throughout the year and would love for you to join us. Join a cleanup here.

If Protect Our Rivers was an ice cream flavor, which flavor would it be and why?

Chocolate. Because we’re usually covered in mud, and have a cause that almost everyone can get behind?

protect our rivers - nonprofit spotlight. Founder, Sarah, rafting on the river!

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro

Kelly Knauf leads the marketing team at Outdoor Prolink. She is a mountain lover, outdoor enthusiast, and professional snack packer. By day she answers emails and writes content, by night she's plotting her next camping trip or snowboarding adventure.

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