First Bloom was founded by the National Park Foundation in 2007 as a tribute to Lady Bird Johnson with the goal of giving children a sense of pride in our natural resources, encouraging them to be good stewards of this beautiful country by planting and taking care of native plants. The Foundation partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of America and enlisted the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to provide native plant training.
First Bloom has rapidly blossomed into a nationwide initiative that serves children and families from urban neighborhoods who may be unaware of the national parks in their areas. First Boom helps kids and their parents and mentors come together to help out Mother Nature and ensure a brighter future for our national parks.
The First Bloom pilot project was first announced by the National Park Foundation Honorary Chair, first lady Laura Bush, at a dinner honoring Lady Bird Johnson in Austin in September 2007. In January, the Wildflower Center welcomed representatives from the National Park Service and Boys and Girls Clubs in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and Austin. In fall, 2008, another training session included representatives of parks and Boys and Girls Clubs in Boston, San Antonio, and Paige, AZ.
During the hands-on workshops, the participants at the Wildflower Center design and install a native plant garden that can be maintained in their local national parks and/or their communities. In addition, they may learn about invasive plants, seed cultivation, plant survival, plant conservation and habitat restoration species.
"Children today often don't have a lot of opportunity to interact with the outdoors, so our whole purpose is to show children that nature can be fun," said Flo Oxley, Director of Education at the Wildflower Center, "Children and their families could also get involved by helping park staff identify and remove invasive species, collecting seeds of rare plants for safe keeping or restoring native plants to overused areas
First Bloom celebrated its one year anniversary in Dallas in November 2008 with Laura Bush and the Jonas Brothers, a popular music group with teens and young children.
The First Bloom partnership is gratefully sponsored by ARAMARK, a professional services organization and leading concessionaire of parks, resorts and hospitality services. They have helped secure a $1 million grant through the Yawkey Foundation to the National Park Foundation.