Philanthropy’s biggest day | VailDaily.com

Philanthropy’s biggest day

Daily staff report
newsroom@vaildaily.com

EAGLE COUNTY — The clock is ticking on the biggest single day in Colorado philanthropy.

The seventh annual Colorado Gives Day is on Tuesday. On that date, nonprofit groups around the state benefit from a focused period of online giving. The day was initiated by the Community First Foundation, and on that day, First Bank handles the transactions, and there are some matching funds available.

This year, 52 local nonprofit groups are participating. Here's a look at the roster of worthy causes.

Salvation Army

While the Vail Valley is a picture-perfect backdrop for visitors, there's a current of desperation that runs just below the beautiful surface.

"With the cost of housing in the valley, seasonal employment, and low wages, it is a challenge to live and work here," Vail Valley Salvation Army Chapter Director Tsu Wolin-Brown said. "Our poor are primarily the working population. They are living on the financial precipice where all it takes is one accident, illness, lost job or a car breaking down to need assistance."

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The Vail Valley Salvation Army is an emergency help organization that provides immediate assistance for urgent, critical needs. Caseworkers also work with clients to develop a plan for future self-sufficiency. When tragedy strikes, Salvation Army provides a much-needed safety net. Since 2008, the number of households asking for assistance has increased by 572 percent.

With the annual bell-ringing, holiday food baskets and the Adopt-A-Family program, the Salvation Army is most visible during the holiday season but need knows no season and continues year-round.

Take Nancy. Nancy's world collapsed when her husband left, leaving her with their four small children. She had been a stay-at-home mother in the Vail Valley with a home and a nice car but no way to pay for either. She arrived at the Salvation Army distraught, but after meeting with a caseworker, she left with a plan. She put her house on the market and in the meantime, the Salvation Army connected her to other local charities who partnered to pay a few mortgage payments and utilities until she could get a job and find childcare. These days, she has a good job and regularly volunteers in the food pantry.

More than 500 households visit the pantry for food and diapers each month.

Run by just two full-time paid staff members and a slew of volunteers, the majority of your Vail Valley Salvation Army donation funds direct services to clients. For more information, go to salvationarmyvail.org.

Small Champions

Small Champions is a nonprofit organization committed to enhancing and improving quality of life by providing sports and recreational opportunities for eligible youth with multiple disabilities who are residents of Eagle County. Individuals receive needs-based instruction to support their developmental progress.

Founded in 1996, Small Champions is a sports and recreation program for qualifying children ages 5 through 21 with cognitive, physical, and multiple disabilities. A Small Champion may be intellectually bright and active, but may be limited in physical mobility or communication skills. Other children have sound bodies but have significant cognitive challenges resulting in mild, moderate, severe, or profound developmental delays.

Our belief is that each individual deserves the best quality of life possible.

Small Champions strives to introduce a wide variety of sports and recreation activities to each of its participants. Children work one-on-one with an instructor specially trained in adaptive teaching techniques and equipment to accommodate a wide variety of disabilities. We provide programs that would otherwise be unavailable to these children without significant cost to their families.

SOS Outreach

Founded in the Vail Valley 23 years ago, SOS Outreach has evolved from humble beginnings to a national leader among outdoor-based youth development organizations. With a combination of outdoor adventure experiences, positive adult mentorship and leadership development opportunities, SOS enables youth to unleash their potential to thrive.

"Before SOS, I saw no future for myself and I didn't know who I was. I was constantly putting myself down and it was hard to find a reason to be happy. My SOS [mentor] group has helped me become a stronger, new me. Not only do I smile, but I have found myself reaching out for help instead of holding it in… SOS is not only an organization for kids, but is a rescue center for most." — Elizabeth a four-year SOS participant.

Headquartered in Edwards, with additional program sites in Colorado, Utah, California, Oregon, Washington, and, most recently, Michigan, SOS offers a progressive outdoor adventure-based curriculum for underserved youth between the ages of 8-18. SOS Outreach empowers youth to become community leaders through a holistic spectrum of programming ranging from a one-day introductory experience with a new outdoor adventure sport to a year round mentor-based leadership program. Over the past 23 years, SOS Outreach has transformed the lives of over 50,000 youth. By creating opportunities to connect, discover new passions, and grow as leaders, SOS inspires youth to take an active role in their communities and their lives.

For more information, go to http://www.sos outreach.org.

Starting Hearts

Starting Hearts has had a busy and fulfilling year in 2016. To date, we've educated more than 10,000 individuals in CPR and defibrillator use through our popular, free 45 minute "Call. Push. Shock." class. We've added Red Cross certification classes, and now teach every week in our training center, on our super cool Heart Rod bus, and our latest training vehicle, the Heart Throb.

For the 2016-17 school year, we have new cooperation with Eagle County Schools to teach lifesaving and leadership skills to the entire school population, more than 7,600 students and adults. We're having a blast spending time at schools, teaching kids from kindergarten to high school as well as teachers, administrators, bus drivers and coaches. It's amazing to see everyone's commitment to act, and confidence in stepping in to help save a life.

With the support of Vail Valley Medical Center Foundation, we're also increasing the number of defibrillators in Eagle County by another 50 units, making our home one of the safest in the nation to care for sudden cardiac arrest victims. It's our goal to prepare our entire community, place defibrillators everywhere, and makes ours a model community for the nation.

Our newest strategic partner, Philips, is providing state-of-the-art defibrillators for our placements throughout the county.

Much of our work is done by a core of dedicated instructors and exceptional volunteers who give so much of themselves day in and day out. These wonderful people work to make our community a safer one for our residents and visitors alike. We extend our heartfelt thanks to our Citizen Heroes for all they do.

To learn more, go to http://www.startinghearts.org.

Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation

As a local nonprofit founded by 19 longtime locals, the Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation's roots go deep and branch out widely throughout this valley.

What we love most is the people. The ones who keep the valley running, who work on the mountain, in the restaurants, at the computers, behind the wheel, behind the desk, on the ladders, on the rivers, in the schools. As much as it's important to us to support every aspect of what makes our valley special, our number one priority is its people.

Too often we forget that sometimes these people have encountered hardship or crisis and need a hand to get back on their feet. Since 2004, Swift Eagle has provided swift financial assistance to hundreds of individuals and families for living and personal expenses, helping them maintain or regain self-sufficiency in spite of the hardships they've gone through. Grants given go toward rent, mortgage payments, utilities, dental and eye care. We are uniquely structured to respond swiftly, especially in emergency situations, and with an active, all-volunteer board, money donated goes to those in need rather than salaries and overhead expenses.

Swift Eagle is honored to be a part of and to collaborate with the incredible family of nonprofits in our valley. Thank you to them and to all our donors who through your generosity and support have made a difference in so many lives and have helped make our community a stronger and better place to live.

For more information, go to http://www.swift eagle.org, or email info@swifteagle.org

United Way of Eagle River Valley

Do you hope to make a big impact in our community with just one gift? Are you moved when hungry children are fed, when families have clothes and shelter, and when we reach out to help our neighbors who are surviving a very personal crisis? Are you inspired when our children learn skills and are empowered with robust tools and experiences that build self-esteem, character, and long term success? Do you know someone who needs extra care, attention or assistance and would you like to prevent their suffering the disparities associated with our most vulnerable populations?

Big challenges aren't solved one issue at a time. A hungry child in a house with unemployed parents has a hard time learning. Families who lack opportunity and hope will often be faced with unhealthy choices, isolation, and crisis.

The key to social change is how we work together on integrated solutions. That's why United Way's approach is so important and so effective. We are on-the-ground in our community, working with nonprofits, businesses, and government to lead collective action that drives results. We invite everyone to be part of this change. For the last 20 years, we have impacted every child, school, and town in the Eagle River Valley.

To learn more about United Way of Eagle River Valley, email info@unitedwayeagle.org, or dial 211 if you are looking for community resources.

Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center

Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center exists to enhance social-emotional leadership skills through an adventure and experiential-based curriculum in nature. Our after-school programs, in-school programs, summer camps and adult retreats provide participants with increased self-awareness, social-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and leadership skills.

At Ute Springs we believe that all people, especially youth in second through 12th grades, gain tools to thrive within a community from adventures in nature.

Our primary goal is to promote each child's social and emotional wellness; help them learn to build trusting connections and relationships; improve their self-esteem; and empower their personal and social leadership with C.A.R.I.N.G. (compassion, adventure, relationships, integrity, nature, giving back) values.

Ute Springs' programming allows students to develop skills in an environment that is challenging and motivating. As a result, students begin to incorporate these skills into everyday life. By supporting Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center's camps and programs, you will also assist in creating global-ready students that are ready to learn and achieve the rigorous academic goals set for them and reinforce vital, global-ready skills. To learn more about Ute Springs, go to http://www.utespringselc.org

Vail Veterans Program

The Rocky Mountains have a well-earned reputation as Mother Nature's playground, delivering unique experiences. Established in 2004, Vail Veterans Program offers severely injured military veterans and their families the opportunity to benefit from this empowering environment.

What began as a five-day adaptive ski/snowboard program in Vail, has evolved to year-round programming, impacting the lives of over 730 wounded veterans and 1,300 family members from across the nation. For many families, it is their first time traveling together post-injury, giving them the opportunity to bond and share in a variety of activities. While many of these activities would seem nearly impossible, the Vail Veterans Program makes these ideas a reality.

"My whole family has benefited from attending Vail Veterans Program," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Wallace Fanene (Ret.), a double-leg amputee, husband, and father of two. "As a parent who has amputations, when my kids and I are in public, other people stare at me and my family. I can sense that my kids feel uncomfortable. Here everything is normal. Other dads look like me. My kids are meeting other kids whose dads have similar injuries. They don't have to talk about it, they just get to play and be kids."

Summer adventures include whitewater rafting, rock climbing and empowerment workshops. In addition to signature programming, Vail Veterans Program partners with Black Mountain Ranch to offer families a week of activities, from horseback riding to campfire songs, where families create lifelong memories.

Vail Veterans Program builds confidence and a sense of freedom in U.S. military personnel with severe physical injuries and those suffering with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Programs are offered at no cost to wounded veterans or their families.

For more information, go to http://www.vailveterans program.org.

Vail Jazz

Vail Jazz is sharing the importance of America's quintessential art form with the Vail community and beyond through the presentation of 65 world-class live performances and three music education programs annually. These offerings showcase the talent of the world's greatest jazz musicians, while making a significant contribution to the artistic landscape of the Vail community. Through accessible, diverse programming, Vail Jazz creates opportunities for current enthusiasts to deepen their relationship with jazz, while providing experiences for the jazz musicians and listeners of the future to establish a lasting connection with the genre.

Since 1995, Vail Jazz has presented experiences in venues ranging from intimate clubs and restaurants to beautiful outdoor public spaces. Vail Jazz offers remarkable diversity and unmatched artistic quality at each of its 65 performances every year. Highlights of 2016 included performances by Joey Alexander, Cecile McLorin Salvant, John Pizzarelli, Monty Alexander and others.

Vail Jazz educational programs strive to engage and captivate young minds in their most impressionable state of development, delivering the inspiring sounds and stories of jazz music's rich history. Vail Jazz Goes to School, Jammin' Jazz Kids and the Vail Jazz Workshop touch the lives of 1,400 students each year, focusing on two critical areas of jazz education: introduction to the music and mastery-level performance. Each program has seen remarkable success in recent years in developing young listeners and aficionados of jazz, as well as Grammy Award winners and world-famous artists who are making lasting impressions on the history of this music.

Vail Christian High School

Vail Christian High School was established in 1998 and is a college preparatory high school, located in Edwards, providing a Christian education to students in the valley. It offers a rigorous program and seeks to identify and develop students' academic and intellectual abilities. In addition, the school has a total of eight athletic offerings. The combination of these along with fine arts and other programs offered round out the picture.

More than 150 students attend Vail Christian High School and it is the only Christian high school from the foothills of Denver to Glenwood Springs. All seniors are accepted to college or university. Alumni have attended: Baylor, Boston College, Carnegie Mellon, Clemson, Colorado School of Mines, Creighton, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Grand Canyon University, Montana State, Northwestern, Parsons, Pepperdine, Rensselaer, Texas A&M and University of Chicago. The class of 2016, which had 39 graduates, received $3 million in merit-based scholarships — an amazing return on investment.

There are several ways to invest in Vail Christian High School students. The Tuition Angel Fund exists to provide financial aid to school families who are experiencing some level of financial difficulty. Its main objective is to never turn a qualified student away for financial reasons. As the school continues to grow, the desire is to increase diversity representative of the Vail Valley.

For more information, go to http://www.vailchristian school.org.

Vail Summit Orthopaedic Foundation

Founded in 2013 by the physicians at Vail Summit Orthopaedics, the Vail Summit Orthopaedic Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to improve the care of patients with musculoskeletal disorders through research, education and outreach.

Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders affect people of all ages and are often painful, limiting, and debilitating. Among children and adolescents, musculoskeletal conditions are surpassed only by respiratory infections as a cause of missed school days. For adults, musculoskeletal disorders interfere with work and quality of life and can become particularly burdensome with age, often causing a downward health spiral that is difficult to reverse.

Despite billions of dollars spent and millions of lives affected, musculoskeletal disorders have accounted for less than 2 percent of the National Institutes of Health budget for research every year since 2000. More research is imperative.

The Vail Summit Orthopaedic Foundation conducts patient outcomes research and basic science studies through collaborative research agreements with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, Vail Valley Medical Center, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, and University of Denver Human Dynamics Laboratory. We present and publish our findings to share knowledge and improve outcomes for all orthopaedic patients.

Our educational and outreach activities take the form of live, internet-enduring, and regularly scheduled activities designed to keep pace with advances in medicine, technology and biomedical research that meet the needs of physicians and healthcare professionals practicing not only in the mountains, but throughout the state, nation and world.

Vail Valley Charitable Fund

The Vail Valley Charitable Fund was created in 1996 to provide assistance to individuals who live and work in the Vail Valley who are experiencing financial hardship due to a medical crisis or long-term illness. The Vail Valley Charitable Fund has grown significantly over the past 20 years, having raised and distributed more than $8 million to approximately 1,500 families in our community.

The majority of our donations come from individuals and businesses in our valley. With your help, last year we provided about 60 individuals and families with assistance to help them make ends meet while undergoing treatment or while recovering from a range of serious medical conditions.

One can find the criteria for aid and apply by filling out the application online at http://www.vvcf.org.

Additionally, the Vail Valley Charitable Fund has a number of signature fund-raising events in order to raise money and awareness of its mission. Summers are the perfect time for outdoor events to bring the community together such as Summer Solstice Trail Run, LG Tri, BecTri and, as fall approaches, there is the beloved Oktoberfest Shuffle. Last year, they brought back the Vail Undressed Calendar to kick off their 20th anniversary year.

To donate, volunteer or refer someone in need, go to http://www.vvcf.org.

Vail Valley Foundation and YouthPower365

It would be difficult to envision the Vail Valley without the Vail Valley Foundation. Since its creation in 1981, the Foundation has served as the community catalyst for enhancing the quality of life throughout the Vail Valley by providing leadership in arts, athletics and education.

By working closely with government, public, and commercial partners, the Vail Valley Foundation is responsible for providing our community with some of its most treasured annual events, including the Vail Dance Festival, EverBank America's Winter Opening, Audi Birds of Prey World Cup and the GoPro Mountain Games.

In addition to operating the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail and the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek, the Vail Valley Foundation also produces the Hot Summer Nights and ShowDown Town Free Concert Series.

Through YouthPower365 (formally the Youth Foundation), the Vail Valley Foundation also serves local students through a cradle-to-career framework.

YouthPower365 students show across-the-board increases in reading comprehension and math. Hard-working Eagle County teachers benefit from increased opportunity for income. Lifelong mentor/student relationships arise on the soccer field, in the classrooms, in the gardens or in the warmth of the Magic (book) Bus as its wheels go round and round.

For more information, go to http://www.vvf.org.

Vail Valley Medical Center

At Vail Valley Medical Center, we believe it's important to give back to the people we serve. That's why we're committed to delivering the healthcare you and your family need.

As a nonprofit, independent hospital, we reinvest every dollar in our community — in the latest medical services and technology. Vail Valley Medical Center has also given an average of $11 million in community benefits each year since 2010. And we offer many programs seldom found at small, rural hospitals.

• Shaw Cancer Center is among the top in the nation, accredited by the Commission on Cancer. Our Spirit of Survival program provides patients emotional, nutritional and physical support. Out-of-town patients can stay at Jack's Place free of charge. We perform over 600 free cancer screenings annually.

• Our concussion experts screened more than 850 area athletes last year. We conducted 250 physicals for local high school athletes.

• More than 100 people were treated in our state-of-the-art Catheterization and Electrophysiology Lab last year. This facility allows seriously ill heart patients to receive care close to home. Additionally, Vail Valley Medical Center and Starting Hearts are installing 50 AEDs across Eagle County.

• Our staff checks area grade-schoolers' ski and bike helmets annually to ensure a perfect hit. We furnished more than 1,100 helmets to children in need this year.

To make a gift to Vail Valley Medical Center on Colorado Gives Day, go to coloradogives.org/VVMC.

Walking Mountains Science Center

Nature nerds, unite. Walking Mountains Science Center is a unique resource for Nature Nerds from kindergarten to gray-haired. Our mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education. Our programs advance this mission by enabling people to explore nature, gain a scientific understanding, and learn about the wonders of our mountain environment through natural science and sustainability programs.

Walking Mountains reaches more than 90,000 locals and visitors annually. We are committed to expanding our impact as people are spending less time outdoors than ever before — especially young people. The average American child spends as few as 30 minutes each day in unstructured play outdoors, and more than seven hours a day in front of an electronic screen.

Walking Mountains program help young people — and people of all ages — unplug, get outdoors and connect with nature:

• We inspire Eagle County students to achieve their goals through experiential learning. Our programs are aligned with state and national curriculum standards, including the Science Technology Engineering and Math Leadership Academy, Girls in Science, and School Field Science Programs.

• We create a more sustainable local community through a robust suite of offerings that are designed to help individuals, companies, and local governments become more energy efficient and sustainable.

• We engage visitors and locals of all ages in understanding the value of our precious natural resources through backcountry hikes, family nature walks and hands-on activities. We run programs throughout the valley — at our Science Center in Avon, the Vail Nature Center, and the Nature Discovery Center on Vail Mountain.

Please consider making a donation to help us reach more people.

For more information, go to http://www.walkingmountains.org/contribute.