Retailer helps out Meet the Wilderness |

Retailer helps out Meet the Wilderness

Carolyn Pope

EAGLE COUNTY – The Gart Family knows sporting goods. They also know how to make a difference in their community, so, when Ken Gart wanted to give back to his Colorado home, he decided to use what he knows best – his stores.This is the third year that the Garts’ stores, Specialty Sports Networks, have held their “Adopt-a-cause” fund-raiser. The chain has 28 stores across the state that participate in the program, where, over a six-week period during the winter holidays, each location encourages store patrons to pitch in to help a specific cause. Locally, the stores selected Meet the Wilderness for the second year, and the fund-raiser makes a huge difference for the relatively small, yet determined, organization, said its executive director, Joe Schmitt.”This program brought in over ten percent of our budget,” Schmitt said. “For us, it will help out in our local programs, including the monument trips with the fourth graders, climbing programs, team building and wilderness trips with the kids.”The six-week fund-raiser this year raised just over $20,000, and the Gart family pitched in 50 cents for every dollar raised. That’s over $30,000 for the nonprofit organization that, Schmitt said, can use the financial help. “We had a budget to serve 1,800 people this year past year, but we ended up serving 2,900,” added Schmitt. “Of those, 2,000 were locals.”The money given by Specialty Sports is tagged specifically for programs serving the locals, said Chris Dixon, merchandise manager for Specialty Sports in Vail”It’s important for us to raise money geographically to people we’re serving,” Dixon said. “Most of the money came in the week over Christmas. One guy dropped in $500 at the Specialty Sports for Kids in Lionshead.”The children’s store in Lionshead raised the most of any of the stores statewide, with $5,300.Laurie Kent, sales and marketing director for Specialty Sports Networks., said the Adopt-a-Cause fund-raiser is also held in Telluride, Denver and Crested Butte, and raised over $80,000 for different organizations. On a local level, management looks at different nonprofit organizations that serve the surrounding communities that fit with the stores’ outdoor sports image. Meet the Wilderness, therefore, was a natural fit. And a little schmoozing doesn’t hurt, either. Apparently, Joe Schmitt bakes some mean chocolate chip cookies.Meet The Wilderness is an adventure-based life skills program takes kids and adults to into Colorado’s backcountry, Schmitt said. The organization offers a balance of physical, mental and spiritual activities to help people in the life process of promoting personal growth, he said. Meet The Wilderness was started in 1974 with high school youth from low-income areas of Chicago. Over the years, the program has expanded and now works with youth and adults locally and across the nation. ==========================================To Learn MoreFor more information on Meet the Wilderness, call 970-926-9376 or visit their Web site at, Colorado

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