212-529-5113 info@trailblazers.org
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Our History

Building Values for Life Since 1887

We are an award-winning youth development organization that, for 130 years, has touched the lives of thousands of young people from New York and New Jersey. Through outdoor experiential education and adventure programs, Trail Blazers helps people of all ages build the values and life skills essential for productive citizenship.

In 1887, John Ames Mitchell, editor of Life magazine, raised $800 to send 266 children from New York City to the Life Fresh Air Farm in Branchville, Connecticut. Since that first summer, Trail Blazers has sponsored thousands of children to take part in outdoor adventures where learning happens experientially – by living and playing together, and experiencing the challenges and opportunities the natural environment offers.. Today, over 1500 children attend Trail Blazers’ programs each year. In our play-based, outdoor-focused and diverse learning spaces – our overnight camp, day camp and Under One Sky after school programs – small groups of children engage in exciting experiences, guided by our caring staff.

Today, Trail Blazers remains the second oldest summer program in existence in the United States, and the first to offer environmental education.

The present philosophy of Trail Blazers began in 1925, when L. B. Sharp became Executive Director of Life’s Farm. A well-known Columbia University educator, Sharp pioneered modern concepts regarding outdoor recreation and education. Sharp described in 1928 what we believe today: “The individual camper should have experiences in adventure and exploration that are only possible in a wholesome camping environment, and are not repetition of the forms of recreation that are available in the city.”

Lois Goodrich, the camping legend, started at Life’s Fresh Air Fund in 1931. She renamed the organization “Trail Blazers” in 1953 and served as the Executive Director until her retirement in 1980. During her tenure at Trail Blazers she wrote the perennial educational classic ‘Decentralized Camping’.

We have always been – and are now more than ever – a program that emphasizes connecting to each other through collaborative outdoor experiences. At Trail Blazers, there are no electronics or screens – ever.


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