SOS Outreach celebrates 25 years, 13,000 volunteers and 60,000 youth served
EDWARDS — SOS Outreach celebrated 25 years this week, an achievement marked by the hard work of 13,000 volunteers and 8,000 mentors helping more than 60,000 kids learn to snowboard and enjoy the outdoors.
On Dec. 21, 1993, five people got together on Beaver Creek to try to make a difference in the lives of kids through snowboarding.
In a celebration of everything that would follow, founder Arn Menconi thought back to 1993 from the SOS Outreach offices in Edwards on Wednesday.
“Beaver Creek wanted to shut down the mountain to snowboarders,” Menconi said. “I said hell no.”
Menconi ended up convincing Vail Resorts to become a founding partner in the organization, with a goal of improving the negative societal perception of the snowboard culture that existed at the time.
By 1998, 200 youth were trying snowboarding at Vail and Beaver Creek resorts on an annual basis.
“What we started to learn in the ’90s was, you don’t teach someone to snowboard and hope it’s going to change their life, you use snowboarding as a carrot to give them a greater opportunity on how to live a greater life,” Menconi said.
‘WHAT CAN I DO?’
Menconi said the staggering number of young people being killed by guns in the U.S. in the 1990s inspired him to try to introduce snowboarding to young people from urban areas.
“Six thousand kids in America were being killed by handguns back in 1993,” Menconi said. “Realizing that’s as many kids as soldiers who were being killed in the Vietnam War each year, and there was protests when I was a kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago to stop a war, but there wasn’t a protest in order to help these kids who were being killed by handguns, I thought what in the world can I do?”
In 1995, after throwing a few hip-hop parties and halfpipe competitions over the couple years to raise money, SOS opened an Eagle County office and introduced 15 kids from inner-city Denver to try snowboarding for the first time.
“I’m truly blessed to see people that I have known since they were 18 years old, and they are now 40, kids who came into the program when they were 7, and they’re now 29 years old,” Menconi said. “Because some people said they were rich and they could shut down a mountain to us, we were now able to grow this organization throughout the United States, so that kids are learning courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility, so they’re learning how to be leaders in social justice.”
DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR
SOS Outreach Executive Director Seth Ehrlich told SOS Outreach volunteers and participants on Wednesday that the organization will continue to work closely with partners like Vail Resorts to keep making a positive impact in the lives of young people.
“As we move forward, we are 100 percent dedicated to working with each of our participants from fourth grade through high school and beyond,” Ehrlich said, “so that they find success for themselves that they never dreamed possible.”
After being founded on Vail Mountain, SOS Outreach has gone on to become Vail Resorts’ longest-running nonprofit partnership.
Through the end of the year, Vail Resorts will match all money donated to SOS Outreach up to $50,000.
But more than donations, Ehrlich told volunteers, “please continue to be a part of this community that’s given so much.”
Learn more by visiting http://www.sos outreach.org.
Company officials say every aspect of Vail management is now focused on attaining the company’s goal of achieving a zero net operating footprint by 2030. Vail Resorts calls the plan their “Commitment to Zero,” and defines it a zero net carbon emissions by 2030, zero waste to landfills, and zero operating impact on forests and natural habitat.