The Miami University Outdoor Pursuit Center (OPC) received a grant in spring 2020 to offer a new program this spring called Destination Wellness.
The program will consist of two overnight trips in April. The first will be a backpacking trip on April 10 and 11, and the second will be a bikepacking trip on April 17 and 18. Both the backpacking and bikepacking trips will begin at the OPC, and the participants will go to Peffer Park and other trails in the Miami Natural Areas.
The deadline to register for either trip of the Destination Wellness program is April 6 at 7 p.m. Students can register online on the OPC website.
The grant for Destination Wellness came from the Miami Initiative for Advancing, Mentoring and Investing in Women (M.I.A.M.I. WOMEN) Giving Circle. The Giving Circle has alumni and staff that contribute to the grant fund, which gives money to about 12 grant applicants per year.
Heidi Bortel, the director of development for M.I.A.M.I. WOMEN, said a grant was awarded to Destination Wellness because of its focus on well-being and it’s a one-of-a-kind program.
“Typically, we have a lot of support on our committee and in our giving circle membership for healthy options and programs,” Bortel said. “We would like to also make sure that it’s not a program that’s being duplicated, that’s already being offered. We want it to be unique and something that’s expanding.”
Destination Wellness focuses on relieving stress by being in nature.
Jen Siliko, the director of the OPC and leader for Destination Wellness, said that even though the idea came to her before COVID-19, the pandemic has made student mental health struggles more common.
“This is an opportunity for them to unplug from that cell phone, to step outside and just be fully immersed in nature,” Siliko said.
Madison Rose, a senior math and statistics major, is one of the peer leaders for the program. Rose said she wanted to help lead Destination Wellness to increase engagement among younger Miami students.
“The Destination Wellness specifically really appealed to me because with COVID stuff, I know it’s been really hard for underclassmen especially to find community and find ways to get off campus,” Rose said. “I thought it would be a really fun experience to get to meet some younger Miami students and help them out.”
Participants will be camping in single-person tents and taking part in activities geared towards wellness.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
“We are planning activities that are focused around mental health and well-being, so things like journaling, meditation, group discussion,” Siliko said. “It’s all based on people’s comfort level, what they want to participate in.”
Rose said she thinks the program is good at supporting wellness because being outdoors can be calming.
“Personally, I just feel so much more peaceful when I’m outside and in nature, and I just think it’s such a nice break from being on Zoom all day,” Rose said.
Siliko said anyone can participate because all the hiking will be at a beginning level.
“I think people might be hesitant to register if they’re unfamiliar with the activity,” Siliko said. “We’re not expecting anyone to have any experience backpacking or bikepacking to be able to do the trip. It’s more about using that as a way to get them outside and away from campus.”