Hope Wanders: Connecting women from different life situations with outdoor adventures

Hiking, exploring, trail running and even volunteering — outdoor adventure did more than make a difference, it made all the difference to Jessica Urton and her daughters.

“It saved me and my girls, it changed the course of four lives,” Urton said.

Urton escaped an abusive situation with her then three young daughters — ages 7, 8 and 10 — by her side.

“I wanted the cycle to stop with me and to lead by example for my daughters,” she said.

The great outdoors provided a safe space and positive environment for all of them. Fast forward almost a decade and Urton is sharing the transformative potential of nature with other women through her Hope Wanders nonprofit organization.

“I cannot say enough about how helpful being outdoors was, and still is, for me,” Urton said. “I want to be able to connect women from difficult life situations with outdoor adventure.”

Motivation, education and donations, the new Empowering Outdoors: Coffee, Conversation and Hiking program at Caesar Creek State Park is designed to raise awareness and increase resources. Urton – also an Explorer Chick guide, yoga instructor and Ohio-certified volunteer naturalist – will speak on March 2 and Adventure Chicks founder Kristy Matheson will be the guest speaker on April 1.

Sharing successes

Spending time outdoors is more than a want for Matheson, it’s a need.

“If I didn’t have hiking it would absolutely impact my mental health,” the Adventure Chicks founder said.

Matheson will build on her personal experience when she speaks about nature’s connection with resiliency.

“I’m going to talk about building resilience by using activities you enjoy like being in nature,” Matheson said. “People who are resilient know their refuge and understand the importance of having a place they can go to be present.”

Since its inception in late 2018, more than 500 women have participated in an Adventure Chicks program — from hiking to kayaking to rock climbing.

“Women have told us that the experiences change who they are – it changes how they see themselves,” Matheson said. “So, when she (Urton) reached out and asked me to help with this, I said ‘absolutely, yes, 100 percent,’ this is totally in my wheelhouse.”

Sharing resources

Beyond offering inspiration and information, the Coffee, Conversation and Hiking events also offer an opportunity to support the mission of Hope Wanders, “to empower and support women who have triumphed over abuse, fostering their connection with the healing power of the outdoors.” The upcoming events are donation-based as the organization welcomes used gear or monetary donations but neither is required to attend.

“Outdoor activities can be expensive and intimidating,” Urton said. “And it can be hard to get involved without the right gear.

“We want to do everything we can to connect women from different life situations with outdoor adventures.”

For more information on Hope Wanders, visit https://hopewanders.love.

Empowering Outdoors: Coffee, Conversation and Hiking

What: Donation-based events benefitting Hope Wanders. Enjoy coffee and conversation with guest speakers followed by a five-mile, easy-paced out-and-back hike.

Where: Caesar Creek Visitor Center, 4020 N. Clarksville Road, Waynesville

When: March 2 and April 13, coffee and conversation 10 a.m., hike begins at 11 a.m.

Info: Visit Hope Wanders on Facebook or Instagram

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