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Connecting Children to Nature via The Virginia Wildlife Grant Program

In this Year of the Bird, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) encourages you to introduce a child to nature to help foster their love for wild animals and wild places. A single encounter can spark a lifelong passion. Experiences in nature, such as birding and wildlife viewing, are memorable and enriching—the thrill of finding wild animals in their natural habitats and the awe of watching how they interact with one another and their environment. The entryway into such activities are relatively easy and low cost—kids can view nature from anywhere; the wonderment can begin at home, in a schoolyard or along a trail or stream. The DGIF is proud to help connect children to the outdoors through our Virginia Wildlife Grant Program, a partnership with the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia.

Over the last 4 years, the Virginia Wildlife Grant Program has supported 128 projects connecting kids to the outdoors, totaling $170,000 and benefiting nearly 40,000 children in Virginia, from our coast to the mountains and included kids with special needs.  Wildlife viewing has been one of the Grant Program’s major areas of connection and support. It was the Program’s most funded activity in 2017 at nearly $20,000 supporting 10 projects. Previous grant recipients in this category have included the “The Sounds of the Birds Study” at Linwood Holton Elementary in Richmond, “Sounds of the James Eagle Tour” for Virginia Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, and an “Outdoor Club for monthly Saturday morning field trips” at Belvedere Elementary School in Fairfax County.

“The Sound of Birds Study” was funded in Fall 2016 at Richmond’s Linwood Holton Elementary School with a focus on providing their students an opportunity to get outside to hear and see the birds in their own schoolyard, and also spend time drawing their observations.  These simple connections could lead to lifelong adventures.

“Sounds of the James Eagle Tour” with Virginia Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments was a great adventure for children and their parents along the James River, led by Captain Mike Ostrander of Discover the James. Tom Wilcox, DGIF Director of Engagement, enjoyed accompanying the families on their field trip. Reflecting back on the experience, Wilcox shared, “I learned that visually impaired kids really ‘see’ nature in a very different way, and the appreciation runs deep when you invest in them. I learned from parents the challenges of raising kids with visual challenges and observed that nature brings people together – an added benefit!”

Belvedere Elementary School of Fairfax County enjoying a Saturday morning nature walk at Huntley Meadows Park as part of their Outdoor Club, a 2016 Grant Program recipient. Stacey Evers, Environmental Educator at Belvedere shared a highlight of the walk: “a great blue heron suddenly took flight, soaring over the wetlands and people….One fifth-grader talked about this moment the rest of the year.”

Belvedere Elementary School in Fairfax County created an Outdoor Club, in which they offered students and their families an opportunity to go on nature walks and view wildlife at local parks on the first Saturday of every month. They averaged 57 participants per month, most of which were students K-5, plus staff and their families. Stacey Evers, Environmental Educator at Belvedere, reported on the program:

“The Belvedere Outdoor Club turned out to be one of the most powerful programs we’ve ever offered….[It] connected youth and adults to our beautiful natural surroundings, and it also connected us to one another. I can’t think of a more effective way to connect children – or adults – to the outdoors than by giving them regular, positive experiences in nature with loved ones and by creating a community whose identity is being outside together.”

Ways to Help Take a Child to Nature

  • The 2018 Virginia Wildlife Grant Program is accepting applications now through August 31st. Do you know a school, non-profit organization, or government entity in need of support for a children’s birding or wildlife viewing program? Please pass along this opportunity to them! Additional outdoor activities are also eligible.  To learn more and apply click here.
  • Interested in supporting the Virginia Wildlife Grant Program? Revenue for the grant program is generated by merchandise sales at ShopDGIF.com, fundraising events, and private donations.
  • Looking for a Place to Share Nature with Kids? The Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail is your guide to finding the best spots for wildlife viewing in the Commonwealth. Find a wildlife viewing site near you by clicking here.


  • August 16th, 2018

The 2018 Virginia Wildlife Grant Program is Open for Submissions!

It is the 5th year of the Virginia Wildlife Grant Program, and we are open for submission from August 1st – August 31st!

We love multiples of 5 and you should too!  Through the generosity of several donors and ongoing sales of merchandise at ShopDGIF, the total grant award has increased from $55,000 to $65,000 to engage youth in the following activities:

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Shooting Sports – rifle, shotgun, and archery
  • Trapping
  • Wildlife Viewing

To determine grant focus, eligibility, funding priorities, allowable expense, timelines, grant compliance, project period, and more, please review the Grant Application Process.

  • July 31st, 2018

Virginia Wildlife Grant Program 2016

Connecting Youth to the Outdoors

turtle-guideThe Virginia Wildlife Grant Program, launched in 2014, provides a funding source to non-profits, schools, and government agencies with a focus to connect youth to the outdoors and is a partnership effort between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia.  Support of the Grant Program is generated through the sale of gear and other merchandise from ShopDGIF. com.   This effort is an effective way to partner with organizations that are doing great things in their communities and have built successful relationships.  Our support provides just a bit more horsepower to make them greater. Read the rest of this article…

  • November 22nd, 2016

DGIF eStore Grants Connect Youth to the Outdoors

IMG_6783 cropyIn October 2010, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia (WFV) created a mutually-beneficial relationship for the purpose of developing new or enhanced fundraising projects and managing funds to implement projects which aligned with the missions of the VDGIF and the WFV. The Virginia Wildlife eStore was launched on July 1, 2013 as an innovative partnership project to raise funds to support fish and wildlife conservation. The eStore represents creative marketing efforts at VDGIF and the WFV and provides customers with products to connect people to the outdoors.

We are keeping with the promise to support fish and wildlife conservation through the development and implementation of the Virginia Wildlife eStore Grant Program to connect youth to the outdoors.

2016 Total Funding Available: $45,000 (individual grant amounts will vary based on the scope of each proposal and we are anticipating the funding of 20-25 projects). The average grant amount in 2015 was $1,500.

DSCN1643Grant Period: August 1, 2016 – July 1, 2017

Eligible Applicants

  • 501(c) (3) Non-Profits
  • Local Government Organizations
  • Schools

Grant Focus Area

  • Youth Outdoor Activities – hunting, fishing, boating, shooting sports, wildlife viewing, or education programs

Disbursement of Funds

  • The WFV shall disburse 100 % of the funds to Grantee when the award is accepted.
  • A match is not required.

IMG_1604Grant Timeline

  • Application Submission Deadline – September 1, 2016
  • Award Announcement – October 1, 2016
  • Project Completion date – June 1, 2017
  • Final Report due – July 1, 2017


  • August 1st, 2016

Giving Tuesday

IMG_0047Today is #GivingTuesday, a global movement dedicated to giving back to local charities and to those in need.  In the spirit of Giving Tuesday we ask that you to consider supporting wildlife conservation in Virginia by giving to the Virginia Nongame Fund.  We hope that our Frog Friday campaign over the past year has provided some insight for you concerning the need for conservation of these important species as well as many others that are listed as species of greatest conservation need in Virginia’s Wildlife Action Plan.  For those still looking for holiday gifts and also interested in supporting conservation, you can check out the Virginia Wildlife eStore. There you will find some great items for outdoor enthusiasts including our Virginia is for Frog Lovers t-shirt. Proceeds from the Virginia Wildlife eStore go toward wildlife education and connecting people to the outdoors.

  • December 1st, 2015