Even before the show started, OR Summer Market-related events were drawing standing room only crowds. In particular, OIA’s first annual Thought Leader Symposium started a tradition well worth repeating.

The biggest news out of the event was that Mountain Hardwear president, Mike Wallenfels, will be replacing Golite President Kim Coupounas as the Chairman of the board at OIA. Coupounas successfully served her two-year term as chair and set the bar very high for Wallenfels going forward.

In addition, the OIA board appointed new voting members. Sutton Bacon, CEO of Nantahala Outdoor; Tom Barney, CEO of Osprey; Pam Schwartzbach, principle of the Ascentials Rep Agency; Will Manzer, CEO of EMS; Steve Shuster, global brand manager for W.L. Gore; and Jay Steere, VP of global product management-outdoor for Timberland.

New appointed seats go to Jennifer Mull, CEO of Backwoods, Mark Leopold, Group VP of Johnson Outdoor Watercraft, Dan Templin, CFO of VF Outdoor, Don Hildebrand, CFO of Confluence, and Gordon Seabury, CEO of Horny Toad. The new board members join sixteen previously elected industry leaders who will continue to serve the industry as its board.

OIA designed the symposium to be the event where CEO’s “tackle the big issues” and begin the creative process of finding solutions. The event addressed potentially the most important issue facing the industry today. While the mainstream consumer media is arguing about which type of recycled nylon is greener, many of the leaders in the industry are concerned about who is going to be playing outside in 20 years.

Frank Hugelmeyer, OIA’s president gave one of the best introductions he has delivered during his tenure with OIA. He pointed out that there is an urgent need to reach out to children and get them outside again. OIA is working on this directly with retailers through the Great American Backyard Campout. This year the event brought 25,000 kids outside for a night of camping with their parents with the help of only a few hundred retailers. With all 3,000 outdoor retail doors in the country participating, the event could make a much larger impact.

The Conservation Fund’s president, Larry Selzer, was the keynote speaker and he addressed the issue in depth, saying that our goal should be to “leave no child inside.” One in five children today are obese and over 3 million suffer from some form of severe depression. Pediatricians are treating repetitive motion disorder more often than they are treating broken bones.

These facts are disheartening to many in the industry, but with the right support and enough creativity behind finding a solution to the growing epidemic of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” it can be reversed.