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Charlotte philanthropist encourages kids to camp

Keith Cradle's Camping with Cradle became a nonprofit to help kids connect with nature.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Keith Cradle might be one of the busiest guys in Charlotte. 

He is the director of youth and juvenile services for the Mecklenburg County Sherriff’s Office. He is an author. He serves on the board of multiple cultural arts organizations. He has a podcast called Crafted with Cradle. He is a world traveler, and now, he also has his own nonprofit organization. 

Cradle is passionate about each and every one of his endeavors in the Charlotte community. His work with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Detention Center is particularly rewarding.

“My job is primarily advocacy to make sure those kids have everything they need and trying to make sure that when they come to us, we get them out and they leave better,” Cradle said.

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His work with the sheriff's office keeps him active throughout the community, looking to form partnerships and coalitions to help ensure the people in juvenile detention have every resource possible available to them. 

“When they leave us, they can transition smoothly back into the community,” Cradle said.

His work with kids doesn’t stop with the sheriff's office. Like most people, Cradle saw his lifestyle change drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. He could no longer hop on a plane and travel, so he took to the North Carolina highways and started camping in our beautiful state parks. 

“More often than not, those trips are very therapeutic, Cradle said. “We’re all dealing with COVID in different ways, and having the ability to get out into nature, to be able to hike, to walk, to camp—to do some very primitive activities--these things were very easy and very accessible.”

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Cradle started posting pictures of his trips online and began getting a great deal of positive feedback and interest from people everywhere. This enthusiasm for his adventures sparked an idea. He wanted to use his love of camping to inspire young people to get outdoors and live active healthy lifestyles. So, Cradle created a nonprofit organization called Camping with Cradle.

“This is an opportunity for me to give back and to share what I’ve learned and what has given me enjoyment,” Cradle said of the newly-formed nonprofit. 

He wants to make sure that camping in the great outdoors is accessible to everyone, particularly those in minority communities. He’s hoping that as life eventually gets back to normal and COVID restrictions change, he’ll be able to teach the youth in our community how to get back to nature.

You can find out more information about all of Keith Cradle’s endeavors at https://www.keithcradle.com