Ladies, it’s time to get outside.

REI is kicking off a summer of women-specific classes Saturday, May 6 at Gateway Park in Travelers Rest. The national campaign, Force of Nature, is designed to empower women to learn new outdoor activities among other women.

“It’s something REI has looked at for years – supporting and creating opportunities for equality,” Haley Swank, Outdoor Programs and Outreach Market Coordinator for REI Greenville, said.

According to a national study commissioned by REI, 85 percent of women surveyed believe the outdoors positively affects mental health, physical health, happiness and overall well-being, and 70 percent reported that being outdoors is liberating. But 60 percent said men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s and 63 percent said they could not think of an outdoor female role model.

In addition to classes and other programs, the REI campaign will help develop outdoor gear tailored to women and will invest $1 million in community programs that support outdoor programs for women and girls.

The kickoff event moves across the street to Trailblazer Park at 5 p.m. for a talk by Susan Wienke, Volunteer Event and Social Media Coordinator for Village Wrench, a nonprofit whose mission is to transform under-resourced communities by empowering others through bicycle repair and cycling educational opportunities. Following the talk, the park’s summer concert series kicks off at 7 p.m.

While men won’t be turned down if they sign up for a class, the program is tailored to women. In addition to a full day of classes May 6, REI Greenville will offer three Force of Nature classes each month through September.

“In September, we are hoping to do a women’s expo and have vendors talk about the way they are designing for women,” Swank said.

The classes target beginners for that specific activity.

“We want to have the opportunity for women to meet other women who live near them,” Swank said. “Hopefully, they will make connections through classes.”

Swank said the program looks at overcoming barriers that keep women from getting outdoors for recreation. The response has already been positive.

“Lots of women are registering for classes with their daughters,” Swank said. “It’s definitely all ages.”

Recreation and outdoor groups can contact Swank at For details about the program and to register for classes, visit or

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