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Journey on Yonder fosters the idea of finding 'JOY' in nature for all

Kim Smith Woodford hopes to address the lack of visual representation of Black and brown people in our parks, as well as the healing power of nature.

PENINSULA, Ohio — Kim Smith Woodford's organization Journey on Yonder, or JOY, wants to see people of color in the great outdoors. For her, experiencing nature is an act of relaxation and activism.

"I created this business to help people find the joy that I feel each and every time I come out into nature, and that's my joy, and that's how Journey on Yonder was created," Woodford explained. "We know there's systemic racism and it's in every aspect of our lives. Not being able to go outside into our park space safely has existed forever...and I feel it's very important to work to dismantle those notions and to say, 'Hey, we belong here.'"

Kim isn't alone. Through JOY, she's found many naturists with stories similar to hers.

"I thought I was the only one out here doing it," Lori Washington said. "I was under the misinterpretation there were no Black women doing these kinds [of things] out here in the spaces, and I was just traveling in my own little circle and realized I just needed to widen my circle a little bit."

Kim Walton agrees.

"We've met several people that are like, 'Oh my God, I'm so happy I finally met somebody that wants to do this stuff,' so our little community is just kind of growing."

Woodford says the benefits of this community extend even beyond friendship.

"The science supports that coming outdoors helps to eliminate stress, anxiety and depression," she said. "I think moving your body out here on these trails can really help to benefit lowering blood pressure, lowering that cholesterol, [and your] weight. That's always a benefit, right?"

Journey On Yonder holds activities such as snowshoe hikes, trail hiking, basic birding interpretive hikes, resilience hikes, photo nature walks, gardening and more.

"We've done treks, but I'm hoping to engage a little more and plan some other fun things such as painting in nature, spoken word and also, you know, we have to celebrate Earth Day," Woodford said. "We are inspiring our family members, our friends, even people we don't even know."