April Snyder and Kristen Wright are the founders of Betties360. Below is the transcript of an interview from 2012 where they shared the reasons why they were inspired to start the organization.
What inspired you to start Betties360?
April: Kristen and I have been best buds since childhood and we shared a love the great outdoors. Our families backpacked together and we both loved to windsurf in the Columbia Gorge and always seemed to be active playing outside.
At the time we started Betties360, my two daughters were in elementary school and I noticed that their generation just wasn’t quite as active. I was going to college to become a teacher, so I was very in tune with children; I had a part-time job as a teacher throughout my schooling years so I was around various age groups. I noticed that at around middle school age the girls became more self-conscious and not as active.
This concerned me as I saw my two girls reaching that age and noticing the changes in them as well. At first, Kristen and I thought that it would be fun to do an after-school program where we would take kids on nature hikes, do some climbing, etc. The plan changed through research on the needs of kids to evolve into just having girls. We thought that it would be nice to take out the boy element so that the girls could just play and not feel like they had to look good in front of the boys or even perform at their level.
Kristen: Betties360 is the culmination of lots of inspiring experiences. My parents loved hiking, backpacking, and climbing so I had lots of opportunities to explore nature. In those wild places I was also able to explore myself. I remember one trip in particular when I was 13 and climbing Mount Adams with my parents. My dad had hurt his knee at the false summit, and my parents told me I could go on alone. I was scared and intimidated, but also curious why my parents believed I could do it. There were lots of other people on the mountain that day and my parents took every precaution to ensure my safety. I thought about turning around lots of times, but kept going. When I reached the summit I felt so empowered. Later as an adult I realized how experiences like this had given me skills that were useful in other areas of my life.
April and I had shared so many of these outdoor adventures together, and we realized our friendship was another important element. We pushed each other, supported each other, and had a blast together. We wanted to provide this kind of space and freedom for women and girls to explore and develop their own abilities.
What was your biggest challenge?
April: Learning how to run a nonprofit! Kristen and I came into Betties360 with different strengths and weaknesses, so we balanced each other out well. When we brought on our first board members they really helped us to take Betties360 to a different level and it has continued to evolve ever since. I’m just thrilled that it’s still going after all of these years!
Kristen: My biggest challenge was balance. Starting a nonprofit with no prior experience takes a lot of effort, and balancing that with my own well-being and my role as a partner and mother was tough. I quickly learned it was another opportunity to learn new skills—sort of like a Betties360’s program in itself!
What surprised you the most?
April: How many people that thought Betties360 was a good idea and wanted to jump on board with us and give their time and energy to it!
Kristen: I think what still has me awestruck is the depth of courage and tenacity of the young women in our programs. I remember one girl who had taken a pretty bad spill on her bike and it was her first time mountain biking. I wanted her to have a positive experience and didn’t want to push her too much, so I offered to go back with her. Through tears she replied, “Why would I do that?” and picked herself up, dusted herself off, and got back on her bike. Never underestimate the potential of a young woman!
Why did you step away from Betties360?
April: As with a lot of things, you just know when it’s your time to step down and let new blood come in and put their heart, time and energy into it. I just felt like dead weight after awhile and was very excited that Betties360 was thriving and didn’t need me anymore.
Kristen: Stepping away from Betties360 was a difficult choice for me, but ultimately it was the best decision for myself and for the organization. A difficult personal circumstance had arisen and after I prioritized my son and myself, there wasn’t much time or energy left for the organization. April and I had served as the base support for Betties360 initially and I realized that the organization would be more resilient if we stepped back to make space for an infusion of creativity and energy from other willing and interested people. Thankfully the mission of Betties360 runs deep for some pretty amazing people, and they’ve been able to not only keep the organization afloat, but also take it to new heights.
What are you up to now?
April: Right now I have been putting my heart and soul into roller derby. I have always loved rollerskating since I was a kid and this sport feels like it was created with me in mind! I just wish it were going when I was younger, it’s tough on your body, but man is it worth it!
Kristen: I am currently in graduate school, studying natural resource policy and administration. Interestingly enough, I continue to be tethered to the Betties360 spirit, as some of my inspiration for choosing this line of study comes from the work of amazing women like Vandana Shiva and Wangari Matthai, both Betties in their own right.