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Team RWB to help Lincoln students explore

Veterans take kids into woods

Three Team RWB members showing off their patriotic spirit during a hike up Mt. Ellinor. Photo credit: Tom Lemaitre

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Tacoma's culture is an interesting juxtaposition of being both right next to nature, but also having a strong inner-city feel that doesn't quite mix well with its woodsy surroundings. Unfortunately, many kids and teens in some of Tacoma's lower-income areas have been deprived of the opportunity to explore the South Sound's outdoor beauty. However, the local Team Red, White and Blue (RWB) branch, along with Tacoma's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 91, are prepared to fix that with Lincoln High School's new Outdoor Adventure Club.

The Outdoor Adventure Club is a gathering of students from Lincoln who are interested in local nature hikes, led by Team RWB, a group that helps to connect veterans and current servicemembers with their community through outdoor activities, particularly hiking and running.

Tom LeMaitre, the director of veteran's engagement for Team RWB for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, said that having the organization start this club for Lincoln was a no-brainer based on RWB's main goals and interests.

"Our chapter captain held a survey for local members, and we found that the biggest passions in our group were hiking and community service," LeMaitre said. "So, the fact that the first thing we can do is offer something that provides both, we're going to take it."

Team RWB uses VFW Post 91's space for the club in exchange for performing maintenance and clean-up for the post's building, so LeMaitre believes it to be a win-win.

LeMaitre recalled that the Outdoor Adventure Club began when Prema Higgins, a former marine, current Lincoln High teacher and new member of Team RWB, discovered that hiking was an unexplored afterschool outlet for Lincoln students. LeMaitre, who's the hiking coordinator for RWB's hiking clinics, agreed and made sure the organization was supporting them fully.

Unfortunately, the group had a major lack of suitable gear for hiking, so LeMaitre said they used both the RWB and local VFW's resources to help these Eastside kids venture beyond Tacoma's city limits.

"When (Higgins) approached the twenty-five interested students and asked how many of them had durable shoes and a raincoat, the number was three. And I've lived in Tacoma many years, so that's not a shock. I wish it was, but it's not," LeMaitre said. "So when she told us those numbers, we figured we could talk to our RWB hiking clinic and ask them if they could take gently used or unused gear and donate it on the day of this event, at the clinic."

This group has grown quickly, and LeMaitre admitted that he didn't expect as many as 25 students to sign up. He also remarked that the low cost of hiking makes the activity enticing not only to Lincoln students, who mainly live in a lower-income area of Tacoma, but also to veterans. Although the Outdoor Adventure Club is still in its infancy stage, LeMaitre has high hopes that the group will change some students' lives.

"You know, the National Parks said it's a crisis when inner-city kids can't get out and experience the outdoors," he said. "It's really all new and raw, so we're hoping that we have a modicum of success, and we can turn that into more."

For more information on Team RWB, visit, and for more information on the VFW, visit

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