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A perfect 10

Tom Boyd

Take five motivated people with a good idea, and who knows what can happen.Back in 1993, on Dec. 21, Arn Menconi got together with Bob Hernriech, Ray Sforzo, Jimmy Delong and Steve Estefan to create the Snowboard Outreach Society a group dedicated to introducing under-served youths to the world of snowboarding and much, much more.Ten years after that fateful day it has become one of the Rocky Mountain’s most successful charity programs. Since its inception, SOS has grown to include programs at 11 resorts in Colorado, 26 resorts nationwide, serving more than 1,000 kids.SOS also manages the Rocky Mountain’s largest amateur competition series, with 15 competitions at five ski resorts.”It was never started with the intention of creating a charity,” SOS director Menconi remembers. “But it continued to grow and achieve something new. It started as something designed to raise money and donate it to other organizations. And somewhere around 1996 it just naturally became a full-time, year-round position for me. It went from a hobby into something I fell in love with and was consuming all of my time.”Eagle Valley Middle School students Jamie, 11, and Brittany Rodgers, 13, along with their mother Wendy, have certainly learned to fall in love with the program.Jamie and Brittany, who live in Bond, are two Eagle County youths who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to get up on the ski hill and enjoy the sport and lifestyle that so many of their classmates have learned to love.”We have four children, and they’re the oldest two, and this has been a huge blessing for us,” Wendy. “With Jamie I know that it’s making her feel more special and more valued, especially by the people in her group.”Jamie was up on the hill at Beaver Creek Dec. 6 with a group of SOS youth snowboarders, and she says the program has given her a lot to think about and a lot to look forward to as the group prepares for its third of five days on the mountain Dec. 20.”I’d gone skiing before and I really, really like snowboarding a whole lot better even though I can’t snowboard that well,” she says.And Jamie learned about two of the program’s five core values so far courage and discipline. She says the values helped her conquer a tough math quiz on Dec. 17.”For my math test I really didn’t think that I was that prepared, so I kind of had to study the night before and I really had to use a lot of discipline,” she says. “And then I needed a lot of courage to get it down because it was seven pages.”Jamie says that life at school can be tough, and it isn’t always easy to know what kind of people make good friends. But her time at SOS has helped her to make good decisions, and most of all, it’s given her something to be very excited about come Saturday.The program is designed to do more than just get beginning snowboarders up on the hill; SOS focuses on five core values, and the organization spends as much time working on a young rider’s inward abilities and mentality as their snowboarding skills and physical health.The five core values courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion are taught over five days and are designed to help youths work through difficult times.”Our goal isn’t to create more snowboarders in the world or a better image for snowboarding; our goal is to give love and compassion to families and to kids who are either struggling with a one-parent family, or poverty, or mental behavioral issues,” Menconi says.With help from the Eagle County Elementary PTO, which donated $200 to the organization, and many other contributors, people like Daniel Perez can head up on the hill and have a positive experience they may not otherwise have had.”At first I didn’t want to do it because I thought it was all easy,” remembers Perez, who just moved to Eagle County from Idaho. “I actually started trying it and I kept on falling and falling. But (the SOS and Vail Resorts instructors) kept on telling me it takes courage to get up and fall and get up and fall again.”In the end, Perez came away with some lessons learned, some new friends, and a new passion for his life in the mountains.Helping people like Perez and the Rodgers girls is paramount to the administrators at Vail Resorts, says Vail Chief Operating Officer Bill Jensen.”We believe that SOS targets people, in part, that may not be from a snowboarding or skiing family,” he says, “and I guess exposing and sharing the passion that all of us enjoy with those families is something that we think is important.”But it’s not just the snowboarding that’s appealing to Jensen.”It builds confidence in a group of kids that probably need it,” he says. “It provides mentoring, and it teaches a value system that is core to success later in life.”Vail Resorts has provided cash and in-kind donations approaching $2 million during their multi-year partnership with SOS, helping the organization by providing instruction and rentals, and allowing it to grow to become one of Eagle County’s most talked-about charities.


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