Vail Valley Voices: Menconi moves on after eight years as county commissioner
Vail, CO, Colorado
The past few weeks of my life have been marked by transition.
I was heartened by the support from the community in the final days of my eight years as an Eagle County commissioner. More than ever, I came to realize that despite our short-term policy squabbles, there remains a strong contingent of people in our community who share a similar vision and values for ourselves and our children.
I have complete confidence in the new Board of Commissioners and feel comforted by the knowledge that they will act in accordance with the needs, values and goals of shaping a better future for Eagle County.
As much as I will always cherish my time on the commission and the lessons I’ve taken from that experience, it’s time to continue pushing forward.
I could not be more excited about returning full-time to the nonprofit sector as founder and executive director of SOS Outreach.
While SOS has been around since 1993, our programs have expanded in a remarkable fashion in the past couple of years. While many people associate SOS with snowboarding in the Vail Valley, we’ve been busy at work behind the scenes and have evolved to become a truly year-round, perennial, national organization.
We now have offices in Edwards, Frisco, Denver and Seattle. In recent weeks, we finalized a merger with Meet the Wilderness, an organization that has helped under-served youths engage in outdoor summer activities since 1974. With the merger, we are better positioned to leverage our mutual resources and provide year-round support for the students we serve through outdoor education and off-hill community service.
The problems facing youths today are staggering. One in four kids in “Generation Y” comes from a single-parent home. One in four are obese, which means, for the first time in history, we will have a generation whose life expectancy is shorter than the generation that preceded it. This is unacceptable.
What we try to do with SOS Outreach is reach youths who are “at risk” ” a term I don’t like using ” and provide them with a positive learning environment, one which allows them to have a great experience outdoors and also fosters character development while promoting leadership skills.
In the past, we’ve focused our efforts on instilling the core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility while teaching kids how to snowboard.
With the positive outcomes we received from those programs, we felt it was time to become a more consistent, constant influence on the lives of youths.
Our mission at SOS Outreach never revolved around making youths great snowboarders. It has always been to create a meaningful connection between our students and their environment, their adult mentors and their renewed sense of hope for the future. That has not changed, and it will not change.
The merger between SOS and Meet the Wilderness is just the first of many steps we will take to become a more effective organization that can meet the varied needs of youths across the nation. In the winter, we will continue to teach snowboarding, skiing and snowshoeing, but our doors at SOS won’t close once the snow melts. Instead, we’ll take students on wilderness adventures that include backpacking, hiking, camping and rock climbing during the warmer months.
In the future, we plan to expand both our range of activities and our geographic reach. Our goal is to be a permanent and positive influence for youths, regardless of their location.
Through the generosity of area ski resorts, national corporations, volunteers and individual donors, we have been able to make significant strides, and this year SOS Outreach will help more than 5,000 youths at 36 ski resorts in the U.S.
My time as county commissioner may be over, but my work on behalf of children in need continues. We’ve come a long way in the past 15 years at SOS Outreach, and we’re certainly proud of the impact we’ve had on youths.
It was an honor and a privilege to have spent the past eight years as a public servant, and it is my hope that we as a community can rally around the common cause of making our corner of the world a little better for the next generation. Thank you for your time and support while I represented you as your county commissioner.
Arn Menconi, former Eagle County commissioner, remains the executive director of SOS Outreach, which he founded.
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