Leon McNeil ('93) | Distinguished Alumni Citation
City Kids Adventures, San Antonio
Hometown heroes can be difficult to find these days. But Leon McNeil ('93) certainly qualifies.
You cannot simply dream and talk about how you would wish to change the world. You must continue to work at it.
After graduating from ACU with a degree in natural and applied sciences, McNeil returned to his hometown of San Antonio determined to help at-risk youth. The result was City Kids Adventures, a nonprofit organization that helps students from urban areas take advantage of outdoor experiences usually unavailable to them.
"Originally, we gave kids an opportunity to really understand that someone cares about them," McNeil said. "We then realized we had more and more kids who needed the same attention, and we hated to limit kids because we could no longer afford to take everyone everywhere. That was the beginning of City Kids Adventures."
City Kids Adventures stresses the importance of getting a quality education while introducing youth to the outdoors.
Close to nature, close to God
"There is something very spiritual about the outdoors, and for us it provides the connection we need to introduce Biblical teachings without intimidating the kids in our program," McNeil said.
The McNeils created CKA with a mission to introduce inner-city youth to a world beyond their communities. Over 18 years, City Kids Adventures has served more than 1,000 children - 150 each year - and expanded to include trips across the country to such places as the Grand Canyon, Washington D.C. and New York City. CKA also offers a youth hunting program and mentors students as they transition into high school and college.
McNeil's own love for the outdoors was ignited at ACU, where he had come on a football scholarship.
"I had a very special couple introduce me to the great outdoors, and not only did they introduce me, they created a lover of the great outdoors," McNeil said. "I took a camping class my freshman year and every year after that for the next four years, and what an eye-opening experience that was."
McNeil says his time at ACU had a huge impact on his decision to go back and help local children.
"Attending ACU was no accident," McNeil said. "The daily Chapel, the friendships, the kind and caring professors and the warm feeling of being a part of something much bigger than I could ever understand - it gave me the trust in humanity and the faith that we all can make a difference no matter how daunting the task.