Vail Daily column: Local teen gives back to the community
During this month of giving, our local youth are expected to put down that turkey leg, serve the community and place others’ needs before their own. Hurry to the Avon Salvation Army, pack those baskets full of cranberry sauce and stuffing, lace up your boots and drop them off to specific homes, all with a smile and a sincere heart. Most teens generate a feeling of self-worth, pad their college resumes, and come Dec. 1, settle back into their busy lives.
Luke Vickerman, a junior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, is the exception to this general behavior and dedicates his time helping others without seeking personal recognition or fame — a rare, special and mature attribute for a 16-year-old. These sorts of characteristics are not typically considered cool, but Luke’s friendly demeanor and grace entices other teens to follow his lead. His passions revolve around rivers, ski racing gates, mountain-biking trails and other outdoor endeavors. An avid rafter and flyfisherman, he dedicates numerous hours to Trout Unlimited’s Eagle County chapter, promoting water conservation and fish preservation. As a member of VSSA’s Environmental & Sustainability Club, the student-led group monitors the school’s energy consumption. In the classroom, he is challenging himself by taking three advanced placement college preparatory courses. A difficult task for an 11th grader at VSSA, who may miss a minimum of 30 classroom days due to the rigorous alpine ski racing travel schedule. In the summer and fall seasons, Vickerman can be seen highlighted in the Vail Daily for his top finishes in the Vail Mountain Bike Town Series and Vail Valley Mountain Bike Club Circuit.
On top of Vickerman’s busy academic and athletic schedule, he commits countless hours to the local nonprofit organization Round Up River Ranch. Round Up River Ranch provides free outdoor opportunities like fishing, hiking and horseback riding to children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses at their 85-acre ranch. He is a camp volunteer at the ranch, assisting sick children escape their difficult lives while playing in nature. He recounts a specific moment when he helped a young camper catch a fish.
“I have never seen a boy so happy to see a fish in his life,” he said. “He was hopping around in his wheelchair and looked ecstatic. That moment will never leave my mind because of the extreme amount of joy that I helped create in somebody else’s life. The experiences of working with terminally ill children put my effortless life into perspective and made me recognize how truly lucky I am.”
Vickerman is serving his second year as a member of Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Youth Leadership Council. This council highlights local high school students who exemplify a strong commitment to supporting youth enrichment through service projects, leadership development and serve as advisers for other nonprofit professionals. These hand-selected students identify the valley’s needs and concerns from a youth’s perspective.
“The biggest thing that I have learned from working with nonprofits is that everyone has a different story,” he said. “You just need the motivation, patience and voice to see results.”
We are very fortunate to have Luke Vickerman in our community, modeling the true principles of empathy and compassion. There is no doubt that he is capable of accomplishing tremendous feats in his life; I just hope he leaves some trout in our rivers for fledgling anglers like myself.
Jason Peck is the program director at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services. The Youth Leaders Council is a program of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers collaborative prevention programs and services to tackle three main areas that affect the development of teens and adolescent youth, including substance abuse prevention, emotional wellness and mental health promotion, and academic achievement. In addition to Youth Leaders Council, Eagle River Youth Coalition offers various levels of parenting education and trainings for community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.