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Take It Outside challenge draws participants from as far away as Florida and Ireland

Selfies showing people participating in the Take It Outside challenge.

The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s popular Take It Outside challenge has gone global. 

Margaret Langevin Chambers of Ireland is completing missions across the pond, said her mother, Marion Langevin, of Chicago, who is also competing. Mother and daughter completed some missions together when Langevin was visiting Chambers in Ireland. 

“You know, it doesn’t snow in Ireland, but it did while we visited her this winter, and (the snow) stayed on the ground for a few hours so she could do her snow mission,” Langevin said. 

Many of the Take It Outside missions must be completed in Will County preserves, so Langevin said her daughter plans to tackle some Will County-based missions for the Summer Soiree challenge when she visits in July. 

“We all learn a lot reading, searching, walking and riding along the Will County trails,” Langevin said. 

RELATED: TAKE IT OUTSIDE WINS OUTSTANDING ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAM AWARD

'Will County is big!'

Langevin and her daughter aren’t the only participants from outside Will County who are competing. The challenge, which began in 2023 as a yearlong competition and for 2024 is broken into four seasonal challenges, has drawn many participants who hail from other locales. 

Here are some of the out-of-towners who are crossing into Will County to complete nature-themed missions, earn points and potentially win prizes: 

Jen King of Minooka lived in Plainfield in the 2000s, and she was familiar with a few preserves. But it wasn’t until she joined the Take It Outside challenge this year that the Grundy County resident really began to fully explore Will County’s preserves. 

“(The challenge) has taken me to so many new preserves I would have never visited before. Will County is big! It is the huge variety that I have enjoyed discovering. Now I know where to go for different experiences and wildlife, such as forests, prairies, lakes and rivers. I also enjoyed discovering historic sights, such as the swing bridge and the Joliet Iron Works site.”

Dean Viehweg of Thornton worked in Joliet in the past, and he was familiar with the eastern Will County preserves of Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve and Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve. But by joining the Take It Outside challenge, Viehweg said he quickly became "obsessed" with the challenge. 

“My favorite discovery has been the diversity of the entire system,” he said. “Woods, prairie, lakes, streams. The different types of trails, paved, grass, dirt, limestone. Many easy, some challenging. O'Hara Woods and Raccoon Grove during bluebell season are a highlight.” 

Snowbirds and sapsuckers

Jeanne Meeks is a snowbird who is in Florida most of the year but spends summers in Will County. She said she was able to complete enough missions last summer, after returning home from Florida, to rank 97th. This year, she said she has been answering trivia questions and snapping nature pictures that aren't location specific to get points before she returns home. 

“When the challenge came out the other day about the holes made by a yellow-bellied sapsucker, I knew exactly where to look and headed for the walking path through my favorite slough,” she said. “I even got my husband out to walk with me!”

Karen Reger of Kendall County said she found out about the challenge through her walking group. 

“I’m participating because I loved being out in nature as a kid, running around and exploring in the woods,” she said. “This has really taken me back to that time and to just be enjoying God’s creation and appreciating its beauty. It’s a great stress reliever as well.” 

Jerry Robbins of Bourbonnais learned about the challenge after he signed up for the Forest Preserve’s weekly digital newsletter, The Compass. He completes missions with walking friend Teri Simpson. 

“We enjoy all your preserves, especially Messenger (Woods), Hadley (Valley) and Evans-Judge,” he said. “Your visitor centers are great, and staff are always friendly and helpful.” 

Tom Melody of Tinley Park said he’s participating in the Take It Outside challenge after having taken part in the fall Woods Walk hiking challenge for years. He said he ventures over the county line “because there is nothing similar in Cook County, and also the trails and preserves in Will County are far superior. (And) your staff is always friendly and helpful, every time.” 

Honoring mom

Robin Higgins of Bourbonnais competed in last year's challenge with her mom, Georganne, but now she takes part in memory of her mom. 

“It started out as my mom’s thing, but she was using me as her millennial tech support enough that she talked me into participating too, instead of just playing Pokemon Go,” Higgins said. “My favorite discovery is how much I enjoy kayaking. My first time kayaking was for the one photo mission last year, and I’ve gone several times since, including taking the Kayak Kollege program at Monee Reservoir.” 

For Higgins, the challenge has even more meaning.

“I am very thankful for the time with my mom this program gave me and the joy that participating brought her. During her final hospitalization, she was still answering Take It Outside trivia questions and photographing things like the multicolored leaf that I could bring inside for her.” 

There is still time to join this year’s Take It Outside Challenge. The Winter Workout ended March 30, but the Spring Fling is underway and will continue until June 15. There also will be a Summer Soiree from June 30 to Sept. 21 and a Fall Frolic from Oct. 6, to Dec. 14. Challenge rules are posted online. Simply download the free Goosechase app to your smart phone to get started. 

Each seasonal challenge will feature a variety of prizes. Amazon gift cards in the amounts of $500, $250 and $150 will be awarded for first, second and third places, respectively. Additional prizes will also be awarded. 

The Take It Outside challenge is sponsored by The Nature Foundation of Will County

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