Vail Valley Voices: Exciting season ahead
Vail, CO, Colorado
The aspens have dropped their leaves, and it’s only a matter of time before the snow starts flying. For us at SOS Outreach, this means we’re gearing up to enter our 19th winter season. We’re excited for the upcoming year, as we have some significant new developments that will help us better reach underserved kids in our community.
Many of you who ask about SOS Outreach are shocked to find how much we’ve grown from our beginnings as the Snowboard Outreach Society of 1993. We’ve gone way beyond snowboarding, and although our winter programs are still our largest, we now reach nearly 5,000 youth through both winter and summer sports and leadership programs in 15 states and in New Zealand.
We merged with the established youth nonprofit Meet the Wilderness three years ago and, as a result, wrapped up a successful summer serving nearly 1,641 kids nationwide. For 150 of these kids, the programs went far beyond simple summer activities. These kids were part of a new pilot program called Masters, where kids participate in year-round outdoor activities, volunteer in the community with adult mentors and learn to live out SOS’ core values. Through this program, we’re reaching kids consistently throughout the year, not only for a few months over the winter.
Our winter programs continue to grow, too, with the enormous help of Vail Resorts through financial support, rental gear, instruction and mountain access. Their mountains have hosted nearly 11,000 kids since SOS’ inception and have allowed these kids to experience snow sports and get involved in numerous meaningful programs that have translated into life-changing experiences. In Eagle County alone, there will be around 550 local kids in our introductory Learn to Ride and four-year University programs.
You’ll likely see them out on the slopes with their adult mentors, or “Sherpas,” who are among the nearly 100 local volunteers who make our programs possible. Be sure to give them some love when you see these groups out this winter.
This year also marks the beginning of a new collaboration with the Eagle County School District that will help us reach the most at-risk kids in our valley. Together with the Eagle River Youth Coalition, Red Ribbon Literacy Project, Walking Mountains and The Youth Foundation, we’ve created a database of all the youth in the school district that tracks attendance, grades and any risk factors that students are exhibiting. Using this information, the school district can now track the progress of SOS students to see the tangible impact of our programs in a child’s academic life. Additionally, the schools will be able to identify the youth that show signs of struggle, such as failing grades and inconsistent attendance. We hope to catch red flags in kids’ lives and eliminate them early in their educational careers. This enables us to work with the kids who most need the outlets that SOS can provide. We’re looking forward to this new partnership and the opportunities it will provide for the kids in the Vail Valley.
SOS has made it our goal to serve the youth of our community for nearly 20 years, and we want to thank you for standing behind us. We may be a long-time fixture in the Vail Valley, but that doesn’t mean we need any less support. There are many ways you can show support for SOS and our community youth. You can volunteer with us as an adult mentor, send us your old gear, or donate during our upcoming pledge drive. Please check out sosoutreach.org for more ways to help us make this another great winter!
Arn Menconi is executive director of SOS Outreach.