NEO was founded on January 4, 2013, by a group of nature lovers in Houston who wanted to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities together in a fun and safe way. These activities included everything from hiking and camping to rock climbing and nature photography.
Apparently, others were looking for the same opportunity because 6 months later, NEO had nearly 1000 members in the Houston area! As word spread, founder Jennifer Boley began receiving calls and emails from a variety of people and organizations asking if NEO could help them learn how to spend more time outdoors.
A Cry for Help
Individuals with no outdoor experience asked for beginner outdoor skills classes. Libraries asked NEO to host public informational sessions. Schools asked if NEO could facilitate field trips for students. Churches asked for better activities for picnics and socials. City governments asked what could be done to introduce family-friendly activities to community events.
We saw a great need and desire by the community to have access to nature and outdoor activities. To many NEO members there was a simple fix...simply go out and do it. But we soon realized that entire generations of people were growing up without ever having built a treehouse, taken a walk in the woods, or pitched a tent. NEO had to help correct this!
The Obvious Solution
NEO began helping where and when we could, but demand grew...along with red tape associated with working with children and schools. During a NEO event, the solution came almost by accident. A member said "We're doing a ton of good for these kids, and we're acting like a nonprofit. Why don't we become a nonprofit so we can help more people more easily?" Smarter than the average bear, right?
Immediately, NEO members chipped in for the nonprofit application fee, we submitted our application, and 2 weeks later it was official. NEO was a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit. The rest is history! Today, we help thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds live healthier and more fulfilled lives with a little help from Mother Nature.
to help people of all ages and backgrounds lead more
outdoor-oriented lives for better health, happiness, and life balance
Jennifer Boley - Founder & Executive Director
Jennifer is passionate about connecting people to the outdoors and sees nature as a great healer and teacher. She is an experienced outdoorsman and uses every opportunity to pass on her knowledge to others. She also teams with schools and community leaders to develop outdoor programming that is meaningful and accessible to all.
Jennifer is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Master Outdoor Leader, a certified "Project Wild" facilitator, and is NOLS certified in Wilderness Medicine.
In addition to her work with NEO, Jennifer is active in other charitable activities such as child abuse prevention and disaster response. These interests are reflected in some of NEO's volunteer opportunities.
Bethany Niazian - Board Member & Volunteer
Bethany is an educator, a single mother of two, a Master Outdoor Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and an ardent supporter of the diverse and exciting activities offered by NEO.
She happily states that through her involvement both as a program participant and a volunteer, NEO has enriched her life and those of her children. They have been enabled not only to more fully explore and enjoy the outdoors, but also to develop new friendships and gain a heightened understanding of the world.
As a NEO Board member, Bethany feels privileged to be able to further assist in promoting NEO’s mission of helping people lead healthier, fuller, and more outdoor-oriented lives.
Joshua Lewis - Board Member & Volunteer
Joshua grew up on a rural 10 acre plot of land in the Texas hill country. His days as a boy were spent building forts out of tree branches, catching horned toads, and hunting for snakes and scorpions.
Days spent exploring the countryside with his father and friends were a formative part of his childhood. Lessons learned while exploring nature were instrumental in helping him become the man he is today. The appreciation he developed for the land and all living creatures helped him assemble the values and code of ethics he lives by today.
Joshua understands the importance of nature in a child's development and sense of self, and he strives to teach others how to learn from nature as he did.
Nena Mbawuike - Board Member & Volunteer
Nena's experience as an x-ray tech serving elderly patients has compliments her nurturing spirit. Her patients remind her of the importance of living life to its fullest. She is also the proud mother of an adventurous Cub Scout and an active scout leader. When she discovered NEO and saw the impact it had on her son, Nnadi, she knew her life was changed forever.
Through NEO clinics and activities, Nena grew her knowledge of the outdoors and developed new skills that opened up her world. She discovered new ways to bond with her son through nature and also enjoys watching him learn about other people and cultures through his interactions with other NEO members.
Nena quickly became a staple figure and leader within NEO's volunteer ranks, and Nnadi is now an experienced outdoorsman and a regular at NEO's "Wilderness Kids" activities.