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SOS Outreach reaches London

Local SOS Outreach leaders join groups from around the world as part of a cultural program in London during the Summer Olympics.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – “When you help youth, you don’t just change a life, you change a generation,” said Edgar Chavez Caraveo.

Caraveo was one of a dozen local SOS Outreach kids who winged their way to London as part of a cultural exchange during the Summer Olympics.

They’re all first-generation immigrants to the United States, most have never been outside the U.S. and few have been on an airplane.



Most of that changed, including the kids themselves.

“London was an amazing life-changing experience,” said Tessy Holguin.



They were on a different continent thousands of miles away, but their core values didn’t change. Each day was an exercise in several core values: Courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility.

“I understand that this is a life-changing experience and that I did earn it, but bragging is no way to express my gratitude,” Holguin said. “I was taught to see the love and good in each person.”

The Global Sports Development Playmakers program made it all possible. That’s an initiative that trains youth to become leaders by taking action to improve themselves and their communities.



Their adventure began in May with a trip to the USOC Training Center in Colorado Springs, where they saw first-hand what it takes to become an Olympian. But more importantly, they saw that excellence is attainable, and that it’s a habit, not an event, said Arn Menconi, founder and executive director of SOS Outreach.

“It’s not the sport. The sport is the carrot,” Menconi said.

SOS Outreach is a value-based leadership development program. It’s aimed at kids considered at-risk and gives them the tools and training they need to be leaders, encouraging them to be active in their communities through leadership and outdoor sports programs.

Many SOS youth come from low-income families and minority backgrounds, so it’s doubtful they’d have the opportunity to experience something like the Olympics.

“I realized that having fun wasn’t the only goal. It was to become better leaders and that goal was accomplished,” Garcia said.

Courage is a core value, and they used it all the time.

“Just seeing so many cultures mix was extraordinary,” Garcia said.

Menconi has been banging this drum since 1993, when he founded the program as the Snowboard Outreach Society to introduce snowboarding to inner city kids.

High school drop-outs are most likely to fall into at-risk behavior.

SOS Outreach grabs them in elementary school and middle school, and holds onto them for years.

“SOS is one of the most organized youth and mentorship groups we have known in the past 15 years,” said Steven Ungerleider, executive board member of Global Sports Development. “I’m so encouraged by all the prep work these kids have done.”

SOS Outreach is a youth development nonprofit that uses outdoor adventure sports such as snowboarding, skiing, backpacking, and rock climbing as the platform for a leadership and character development curriculum. SOS now has locations in Denver, Summit County, Eagle County, Tahoe and Seattle. This year SOS will serve 5,000 youth nationwide through outdoor leadership programs in 15 states as well as internationally in New Zealand.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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