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800 participants get serious 'Winter Workout' in first seasonal Take It Outside Challenge

A few of the Take It Outside challenge first-place winners.

Winter weather didn’t stop more than 800 people from venturing outdoors to take part in the 10-week Take It Outside Challenge: Winter Workout. 

The seasonal challenge – the first of four that will be offered this year – ran from Jan. 21 through March 30. More than 30 people successfully completed all 110 missions to land in first place. 

Nature-themed missions included GPS check-ins at various preserve locations, photos or video of outdoor sights and creatures, and trivia questions. More than 29,000 missions were completed by all participants to earn points and prizes. 

Responses from the winners said the challenge was fun, fantastic and "provided many hours of happiness outdoors."

Though there were 36 people in first place by the conclusion of the challenge, the $900 in prize money will be split equally among 26 winners because only one person per household could win. They will receive Visa gift cards.

Also, several Forest Preserve Take It Outside prize packs and gift cards were awarded to participants at random. And prize packs valued at $135 and $228 furnished by Wild Bird Unlimited in Joliet also were awarded at random to two participants who completed specific missions sponsored by the store. 

Seasonal split

The inaugural 2023 Take It Outside Challenge was a yearlong competition that was phenomenally successful. Participants said they felt better physically and mentally, they discovered preserves and trails they never knew existed and made new friends. 

This year’s challenge was split into four seasonal sessions to encourage more people to participate because of the shorter time commitment required, said Chad Merda, the Forest Preserve’s head of digital marketing strategy/engagement.

“We definitely saw a sharp uptick not only in the number of participants, but the number of missions people were completing,” he said. “We’ve also heard from many on how the seasonal challenges were much more enticing to them and that’s largely the goal of the challenge, getting people outside and enjoying nature.”

And even though some of the challenges were more difficult, including the tiny Willy mascot head posted at the end of the Lake Renwick Bikeway, the leaderboard of those completing all missions remained crowded. 

“The enthusiasm of people participating in the challenge has far exceeded our expectations once again,” Merda said. 

The remaining challenges for 2024 are:

  • Spring Fling: Sunday, April 14, through Saturday, June 15 (join code V813P4)
  • Summer Soiree: Sunday, June 30, through Saturday, Sept. 21 (join code BD13J5)
  • Fall Frolic: Sunday, Oct. 6, through Saturday, Dec. 14 (join code ED7MGP)

To join the fun, download the free Goosechase smartphone app from the App Store or Google Play. Search for each seasonal challenge by name or enter the join codes listed above. Point totals will be listed on a leaderboard in the Goosechase app so you can see how you and others are doing in the competition.

Make sure you read the online rules before you begin competing. The rules have been changed for the three remaining 2024 challenges to try to rectify issues that popped up in the winter challenge including clear examples of cheating. 

Also, Merda advised participants to read mission instructions carefully. 

“We verify every mission and saw a significant increase in the number of submissions we had to reject, including photos that had nothing to do with the mission,” he said. 

The Take It Outside Challenge is sponsored by The Nature Foundation of Will County. Take It Outside hats, shirts, and bandanas are available for purchase at OutsiderThreads.com and all proceeds go to the Foundation. 

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