Renamed Youth Foundation, YouthPower365, looks to the future | VailDaily.com

Renamed Youth Foundation, YouthPower365, looks to the future

Rex Keep Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY — Nearly 20 years ago, a group of local businessmen wrote some checks to help area school children. Today, that modest idea has grown into a much larger project. Now, the Youth Foundation has a new name: YouthPower365.

The first idea behind the Youth Foundation was to provide funding to new and existing programs that helped kids with academics and after-school activities. That's why it was first called a foundation. But the idea of helping others evolved quickly, and the Youth Foundation was soon running programs of its own, ranging from the Magic Book Bus for preschoolers to PwrHr academic programs for older kids to internships and apprenticeships for young adults.

Those programs have expanded even more in the three-plus years since the Youth Foundation merged with the Vail Valley Foundation, the valley's biggest nonprofit group. Now it's time to expand still more, focusing primarily on existing programs.

By far the most popular of those programs are the PwrHr after-school programs. That program, now in every public elementary and middle school in the valley, is serving 1,200 kids this school year. The program helps kids with academics, of course, but programs also helps with education about nutrition, character building and other topics.

Lee Jones, director of operations for YouthPower365, said the PwrHr programs have become so popular — both after school and in the summer — that enrollment has to be limited. Expanding that and other programs is the first goal as YouthPower365 looks to expand its reach.

'Every child, every day'

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"We want to be able to serve every kid in every grade in every public school within the next two or three years," Jones said. "We're not going to say no to anybody."

Melisa Rewold-Thuon is the Vail Valley Foundation's vice president of education. That job means she oversees YouthPower365.

Rewold-Thuon said it could cost $1.1 million to expand the PwrHr and GirlPowHER programs to include any kid who wants to participate. That's going to take some time and plenty of effort.

But the expansion goal is one part of the organization's new motto, "Every child, every day."

While about half of the group's programming focuses on education, the rest of the programs are cultural or recreational. Recreation ranges from soccer groups to taking kids to ski races. The Youth Foundation was able to bring about 600 school kids per day to the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

"We're serious about creating fun — that's what captures kids," Jones said.

The Youth Foundation was already well on the way to serving as many kids as possible, having grown in 20 years from serving about 150 kids per year to providing some sort of program for about 4,000 local kids this year.

The combination of both school-year and summer programs explains the "365" of the group's new name. But why change the name of a group that had established itself in so many ways?

There are branding reasons — YouthPower365 tries to incorporate the group's focus on kids, include the name of two of its most popular programs and embrace the goal of being an everyday resource.

Why change?

But there are more down-to-earth reasons, too.

For one thing, the Youth Foundation since 2012 has been part of the Vail Valley Foundation. Jones said that's created some confusion among donors and others, particularly since it's been a long time since it was an actual foundation, an organization that provides grant money to other groups.

Then there's the Youth Foundation name.

"If you Google 'Youth Foundation,' there are hundreds, if not thousands,' in the United States alone," Jones said. YouthPower365 is a way to differentiate this group from the many others that once shared the Youth Foundation name. The new name may help open doors to more potential donors.

Rewold-Thuon said opening the group's doors to more kids will be an asset to families throughout the valley. The first Youth Foundation programs were aimed at lower-income families, and that's still a major part of the work, since 43 percent of all students in the Eagle County Schools are able to qualify for federal free or reduced-price lunch programs.

But Rewold-Thuon said the cost of living in Eagle County requires an annual household income of about $73,000 to cover the basics for a family of four. More after-school and summer programs can help all the valley's families, she said.

Five facts:

• YouthPower 365 is the new name of the Youth Foundation.

• The group was created in 1997, and merged with the Vail Valley Foundation in 2012.

• The group runs 16 programs for local kids, from preschool age to high school.

• More than 4,000 kids per year participate in those programs.

• To learn more, go to http://www.youthpower365.com.