Editor's note: The Vail Daily is running a series of articles on nonprofits that are participating in Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 4.
Thousands of kids in our community are struggling to realize their full potential because they are growing up in single-parent households, involved with the courts, or exposed to drugs and alcohol. SOS Outreach is a national nonprofit based in Vail which helps youth combat these and other risk factors by offering a values-based leadership and mentorship curriculum. SOS programs tie outdoor adventure sports like snowboarding, skiing, backpacking and rock-climbing to five core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, and compassion. Along the way, adult mentors from the community help them set and reach goals, both academically and athletically. Using adventure sports as a hook to get kids involved, SOS has an unparalleled opportunity to transform at-risk youth into future leaders and active community members.
SOS serves 5,000 kids across the county, offering over 20,000 program days annually in 15 states. The SOS leadership program builds long-term relationships, encouraging kids to progress through a four-year curriculum. Graduation requirements increase with each subsequent year including more service learning projects, more leadership workshops, and greater commitment to the core values. By the end of four years with SOS, kids are better positioned to make positive life decisions and give back to their community. Many choose to remain involved with SOS in a Junior Sherpa role, learning to be a mentor and lead the next generation of SOS youth.
The impact of SOS is best said by the participants themselves. One student commented that "It's not just about snowboarding. I've matured a lot throughout the SOS program and learned a lot about myself. I'm taking responsibility for myself and my actions a lot more and I've had a lot of fun riding." Another explained that SOS used "skiing to help me practice values like integrity, wisdom, and compassion. Knowing that I have so much support from the friends I made and my mentor encourages me to be better in school and life."
Realizations like these embody SOS's mission to inspire youth to make positive decisions for healthy and successful lives.
None of this happens without the support of the community. If you would like to learn more about SOS programs and volunteer opportunities, visit www.sosoutreach.org.