SOS Outreach celebrates 25th season
Non profit for youth comes a long way from its snowboarding roots
It’s hard to believe that in 1993 many resorts weren’t even allowing snowboarding on their trails. That negative perception of the sport is what spurred what is now SOS Outreach, an organization that has served over 60,000 youth since its inception.
SOS Outreach’s model used the sport of snowboarding as the hook to get kids interested and engaged but once they got into the sport, the connections came naturally. The curriculum isn’t just a one-and-done type of offering, SOS Outreach’s model hosts its Academy, which is five days of instruction of a sport, but it doesn’t stop there. The kids wanted more, more connection and more community. So SOS Outreach created more opportunities for them.
SOS University is a four-year leadership program focused on service, sports and mentorship. For students in Eagle and Summit County, University is now a year-round experience, offering students a continuous year of positive adult mentorship and adventure sports. The year-round program is gradually expanding to other locations as well.
But the kids wanted even more. They wanted to give back and enact some of the core values they had learned. SOS Outreach teaches their students six core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility. SOS started a Masters Program, which is a peer mentorship program that offers intensive leadership training and the opportunity to teach younger students.
It may have started out as the Snowboard Outreach Society, but due to the demand, other sports were added, and not just winter sports. Kids have the opportunity to stay engaged year round.
On Vail Resorts’ mountains alone, 35,000 youth have accomplished 1,042,805 hours of outdoor adventures at 11 mountains across 6 states. Vail Resorts was an early partner and contributed greatly to the success of the program by providing the necessary elements needed.
SOS Outreach strives for long-term character development. Intertwined with the fun activity, be it snowboarding or camping in the wilderness, the kids were taught life lessons. In addition, community service projects were added and SOS Outreach participants have provided 101,172 hours of community service.
SOS Outreach not only involves the kids, but it draws in the community as well. Over 8,000 volunteers have touched the lives of others by being a part of this program and 5,059 youth were paired with positive adult mentors.
On April 11, SOS Outreach hosted graduation for 238 kids in Eagle County and graduations are being held across the nation at other program locations. Although the sport was initially the hook, the lessons these kids learned while in the SOS Outreach will span well beyond the slopes.
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While Kaemmer loved skiing, he also loved to work, and in Vail he found what he believed would be an idyllic setting to be both an entrepreneur and a skier.