Vail Resorts awards $2.7M in grants

Melanie Wong
SOS Outreach, a youth outdoor leadership nonprofit, was among more than 50 Eagle County-based organizations that received either cash or in-kind grants from Vail Resorts' EpicPromise program this year. Grant recipients were honored at a presentation and reception on Thursday.
Special to the Daily |

VAIL — This year, Vail Resorts’ local charitable giving list included causes that ranged from higher education to outdoor opportunities for youth to feeding hungry kids.

For 2014, EpicPromise, Vail Resorts’ charitable giving and sustainability arm, awarded community grants to 54 nonprofit organizations based in Eagle County as part of its annual grant cycle. The EpicPromise grants support youth program and environmental initiatives that provide basic needs, connect kids with the outdoors, rehabilitate popular trails and increase educational opportunities for all kids. Across all Vail Resorts communities, the company gives $7 million in cash grants and in-kind donations each year to 740 nonprofits.

On Thursday, charities, volunteers both from Vail Resorts and the rest of the community, and executives from Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, CME and Vail Resorts Retail gathered at Donovan Pavilion to celebrate the grants and recognize the community work in Eagle County.

“EpicPromise connects our core value of ‘do good’ with everyday actions to ensure a promising future for our communities and our mountains,” said Chris Jarnot, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. “Together with these nonprofit partners and our employees, we want to make sure we are working each day to preserve our landscapes and forests, while providing a bright future for local kids. These grants fund programs that help kids achieve great things in the classroom and develop a passion for the outdoors.”

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Across the community

The grants went to organizations of different sizes that ranged from the local soccer and hockey clubs to organizations like the Vail Valley Foundation and the Vail Valley Medical Center.

Some nonprofits, such as Food Rescue Express, started with humble beginnings and grew with the help of the resort. Toni Berns started the organization with the goal of feeding elementary school kids who weren’t getting proper nutrition at home.

“Four years ago, we received this application from a nonprofit run by one woman out of her garage,” said Kristin Kinney Williams, of Vail Resorts Development Company. “We were shocked to find that kids were going home from school every Friday and coming back for breakfast on Monday, and not eating much in between.”

Vail Resorts has supported Food Rescue Express each year and the nonprofit now is on track to serve 11,000 meals to Eagle County kids this year. The Vail Ski Patrol now is also big part of getting both food goods and money that support the nonprofit.

Other grants went directly into schools, such as one given to the Education Foundation of Eagle County. The group was started a few years ago by dedicated parents who sought to mitigate the budget shortfall in the public school system. The nonprofit’s work includes awarding outstanding teachers with financial compensation and helping teachers get graduate degrees.

Other grants stayed on the ski slopes. SOS Outreach, a youth outdoor leadership nonprofit based in Avon, introduces kids from Denver to Vail to Lake Tahoe to skiing and snowboarding. Most of the equipment for the program is provided by Vail Resorts retail stores.

“Since SOS was founded 20 years ago, 19,000 kids have been introduced to skiing and snowboarding through SOS,” said Executive Director Seth Ehrlich.

Similarly, Small Champions gets local kids with disabilities out on the slopes. Executive Director Connie Miller said that Vail Resorts’ grants are integral in their work.

“It’s a huge part of our program,” she said. “They provide lots of equipment, passes and even Adventure Ridge passes for the summer. They’re a great part of our work.”

For the environment

EpicPromise also includes a guest donation program that raises money for the National Forest Foundation for restoration projects in Eagle County through a $1 opt-out program on season pass sales, online lift tickets, room nights and rounds of golf. And this holiday season, the Vail Resorts Retail’s EpicPromise Holiday Giving Campaign to raise money from customers, matched by Vail Resorts, will go to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. This campaign will take place now through Jan.  10 at all of the retail locations including Vail Sports, Beaver Creek Sports, Patagonia, Burton, Smartwool and all of the Vail Resorts Retail specialty stores.

In addition to these programs, Vail Resorts connects employees with the community. During the past year, employees gave more than 20,000 hours of company-sponsored time. In Eagle County this included 1,000 hours to help build a new mountain bike trail in Avon.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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