ACA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives - ACA

ACA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

ACA DEI Statement

The ACA strives to be an association in which participants, members, guests, and the organizations they represent, feel a sense of belonging and are treated with dignity and respect. Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is fundamental to our organization and organizational partnerships. We will continue working to decrease barriers, and increase access to paddling opportunities within communities that have been underrepresented and historically marginalized.

DEI Board Committee

The DEI Board Committee is composed of ACA  board members, staff, members, and experts that advise and guide DEI initiatives. This committee is focused on creating change within the ACA to shape internal policy and existing programs to ensure that there is representation from racially, gender, socio-economically, and ability diverse communities. This work will focus on developing an internal strategy for the ACA so that DEI is interwoven within the development of long-range strategic plans.

ACA Staff – DEI Coordinator, Lily Otu

Lily joins the ACA from Reading, Pennsylvania as our first Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Coordinator. By teaching us to lead with equity, Lily has helped us achieve meaningful results in our journey towards a more inclusive and diverse community of paddlers. While achieving a BA in Sports Management, and a Masters of Business Administration, Lily also competed as a collegiate track and field athlete at Mount St. Mary’s University. She then went on to work to develop, implement, and support DEI initiatives within multiple collegiate athletic departments. More recently, Lily not only became a mother, but also founded a consulting firm that creates personalized strategies for individuals and organizations to advance their intercultural competence and promote honest and purposeful development. Lily’s extensive professional experience in executing DEI initiatives will be crucial in progressing the ACA’s commitment to overcoming barriers to participation in the paddlesports community.

Initiatives to date:

Equity and Access Donation Fund: Developed to support ACA’s commitment to expanding access to paddlesports. The fund aims to help remove financial barriers to participation for underrepresented groups or individuals to pursue paddling education, leadership development, competition, and/or instructor certification.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training: The DEI Board Committee has offered multiple training and peer sharing opportunities to ACA leaders and members in an effort to grow a common understanding of inequity.

L.L.Bean Club Fostered Community Grant: Provides grant funding to ACA member organizations, clubs, and volunteer groups for their ongoing activities, projects, and programs which illustrate substantial and quantifiable efforts at inviting and including a diversity of new community members. The goal of these intentional efforts to invite diversity into established club events and programs creates a welcoming environment for new paddlers to get involved and the opportunity to create lifelong connections to their local waterways and to the larger paddling community. Click here to learn more.

Cover Photo Credit: Chris Farris – Team River Runner, California / American River Chapter

Leadership Exploration and Development (LEAD) Initiative: This transformative program is specifically crafted to empower and uplift individuals of color by providing them with the necessary training, education, and skill development to make a positive impact in their local communities through paddlesports. The program is a 4-day immersive experience that includes comprehensive coursework and ongoing mentorship, ensuring that participants are fully equipped to achieve their goals and bring representation to the paddling world. This initiative is an opportunity for individuals to enhance their leadership skills on the water, build community, while simultaneously creating a ripple effect of increasing paddlesport accessibility and participation in their home communities. 

We were able to host four programs across the country this past summer alongside our organizational partners, Hudson River Riders/Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club in New York, REI Co-Op in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, California, and Iowa Rivers Revival in Des Moines, Iowa.

LEAD Program - California

LEAD Program - Iowa

LEAD Program - New York

LEAD Program - Washington, DC

DEI Resources

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Won't Work Without Antiracism