by John Russel Jones

Global footwear brand Keen has announced its “Making Waves” partnership with Outdoor Afro, a not-for-profit organization celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature, and the YMCA. The national program, which aims to impact 100,000 Black youth and their caregivers over the next 10 years, launches with an awareness and fundraising campaign highlighting the alarming statistic that Black children are nearly 6X more likely to die from drowning than white kids, according to the CDC. A limited edition Outdoor Afro x KEEN sandal collection was released this week in support of the program and is designed to increase attention while helping to raise funds for Swimmerships, scholarships for swimming lessons happening primarily at YMCAs.

“These alarming statistics demanded action,” said Rue Mapp, founder, and CEO of Outdoor Afro. “We need to stop the drownings and give kids confidence in and around the water.  It’s about saving lives and enabling stronger connections to our waterways and the outdoors.  This is an important step in the right direction. We are most grateful that our partner of a decade, KEEN, has supported Making Waves for the last three years, and are excited that the YMCA is adding its strength to the effort. It’s great to see this all coming together.”

The Outdoor Afro x KEEN sandal collection features artwork from Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Leandra Taylor. Taylor has been an inspiration, teacher, and friend to kids hungry to learn about the outdoor experience. Her art is incorporated in silhouettes for the whole family, including Newport H2 for men; Astoria West for women;  Newport H2; and Stingrays for kids. The collection will be available on keenfootwear.com and at retailers across the U.S., as well as select retailers in Canada, Europe, and Japan. One percent of all sales will go to fund new Swimmerships™. 

Outdoor Afro created Making Waves in 2019 with KEEN and the YMCA first supporting a pilot program in New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Phoenix in 2021. The expanded partnership will now help Outdoor Afro grow in key markets across the country in 2022.