Vail Daily letters to the editor
Vail, CO, Colorado
Great to get out
At 7 a.m., I woke up to the sound of “Baby Got Back” only to find out that on the other side of that ring tone was SOS Outreach Executive Director Arn Menconi telling me about an opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. The reason for this trip wasn’t to vacation and explore – it was to advocate for something I strongly believed in, which is to help get kids outdoors rather than spend all day on Facebook.
“Oh, Arn and his ideas,” I thought to myself. Of course, I agreed to go to Washington, and after the numerous emails back and forth, I finally received my boarding pass.
“Oh my goodness. This is legit!” I said to my roommates. D.C., here I come.
It was my first time being on a plane since I was 3 years old. Luckily I was with another SOS student, Paco, and he walked me through the whole process.
I thought I was going to wake up at any second to the smell of my roommates burning ramen, but no, I was still on my way to D.C. I was nervous, to say the least, going inside the airport with so many numbers and rooms and lines. I swear I would’ve just started walking home if it weren’t for Paco.
Security was a pain. I was worried that my 20 piercings would set off the alarm and a giant security officer would Taser me to the ground. I finally passed through security and the gates, and the only real issue was them taking my mouthwash.
I walked down the aisle to find my seat. This is where I learned that assumptions are bad. This was nothing like the movies. I wasn’t in a high-tech plane with televisions in front of me. There were no snakes on a plane and definitely no Adam Sandler singing a love song from first class. It smelled like feet and business.
I knew we were in Washington to advocate, but what I didn’t know was that I was going to be in a room with senators. Meetings … yuck! Something about penguin suits makes me feel like another sheep in the pack.
Although I was required to wear business apparel, I wish I would’ve made more of a statement. These people see suits all day, so they wouldn’t forget a girl wearing an SOS T-shirt talking about what she wants.
Besides that, I really did enjoy it. Shaking hands, hideous ties, bumping into the mayor of Denver and watching Arn do his thing. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m not much for sightseeing, but I’m one to shake hands with important people. So Ken Salazar, shaking your hand is finally checked off my bucket list.
As for you, Obama, I will meet with you next time. Sorry I couldn’t make it to our basketball session, but I was in a meeting with Mark Udall.
I was surprised to see the representatives of Colorado smile outside of pictures. They are people, too, not just robots like I used to believe. Seeing this definitely changed my view of government. I might actually watch their speeches now and not skip the channel as soon as I see a podium and suit.
SOS teamed up with the Sierra Club and a veterans group, and we met with different lawmakers and told our stories. I’m always talking about keeping kids healthy, always making sure I’m outside as much as I can be and always trying to make a difference one kid at a time.
Going straight to the source to help support the Get Children Outdoors act was incredible. I can tell my story to the people who will make this possible. I really felt like my voice was being heard and that Paco and I were speaking for other kids.
I found some inspiration of my own. After hearing the stories about the vets finding their escape in the wilderness, I thought, “What about the kids with parents in the Army? Where is their escape? And can I help them find it?” I also shared my story about how I love the outdoors and all the opportunities that wouldn’t be available to me if it weren’t for SOS and how I have my very own escape when I’m out in the wild. When we were sharing our stories, it felt as if there was no longer a silence. All those kids are being listened to now.
Overall, this whole experience was more than I expected. Thank you, Arn and the Sierra Club, for making this happen. I hope to come back to D.C. one day, and before I start tearing up, I’d like to say, “Kids – go play outside!”
Advocating for outdoors
Recently I traveled to Washington, D.C., thanks to the Sierra Club, to take part in its Great Outdoors America Week. A group of about 100 people helped advocate for the outdoors (specifically for an upcoming bill called the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act). I represented SOS Outreach, a youth outdoor nonprofit that I have been involved with for eight years, in lobbying for the bill. In three days I saw and heard many stories from people from all over the country who came to make sure that the outdoors remain usable and accessible for everyone. Our group walked around (a few times running around) Capitol Hill meeting with House representatives and three senators and their staff.
There were other advocates, including veterans, other youth and other organizations. We introduced and helped gather support for the bill, which creates incentives for states to create plans to address the problem of children not spending time outdoors.
Consequently, I learned that today children aren’t exercising enough (even less then I thought), only getting on average about seven minutes of unstructured play a day (versus five to seven hours spent with electronics). Because of this, kids are less and less acquainted with the natural environment. As they grow older, they also are less likely to want to protect and conserve the land.
In addition, obesity rates have shot up. Data showed Colorado being the state with the lowest obesity rate (19 percent), and yet a decade ago that would have made Colorado have the highest rate. This problem is especially true of urban areas. But it is a problem here in the mountains as well.
I never really paid attention to the surrounding mountains until I was introduced to it through SOS Outreach. SOS seeks to teach lifelong values, character and leadership through outdoor activities. By introducing me to snowboarding, it has opened up other outdoor activities that I pursue on my own. In addition, my involvement has caused my younger siblings to begin that path earlier than I did. Also, SOS continues to use the outdoors to teach leadership to others and myself.
At the beginning of our trip, a person from the Sierra Club told us an anecdote that really summarized our goals for the week. He told us a story about a person tossing starfish from the beach back into the ocean to save them from drying up. He was making only a small difference (there were thousands of starfish), but it definitely made a difference to the ones he did help.
We only stayed in the city for a couple of days, but I believe that the small difference we can make does matter.
Life, sports unfair
Mr. Sandoval, as a former coach at both the junior high and high school levels in this county, I believe you are way out of line addressing an internal problem you may have with Coach Weatherred in the paper.
The great thing about sports is it prepares our kids as much or more for life than many other things they do at school.
Yes, Mr. Sandoval, that means everyone does not get a ribbon. Just because a kid works hard in the offseason, grows a year older or shows up all the time does not guarantee playing time.
Life is sometimes unfair, and the sooner we teach our kids that, the better off they’ll be. I would love to know your background in volleyball since you seem to know each kid’s talent level, attitude and work ethic on the team. Perhaps you could invite Coach Weatherred to shadow you at work for a couple of weeks and give you some advice on how to do your job better.
Maybe you could grab a whistle, put in countless unpaid hours working in the offseason, leave work at 11 in the morning and arrive home well past midnight, and then you could give everyone a ribbon while you sit at the bottom of the conference.
Shame on you and this paper for printing your letter.