SOS Outreach, the non-profit organization heading into its 26th year of operation and the industry leader in using outdoor activities – namely skiing and snowboarding – to engage youth in a mentor-driven, curriculum-based program, has named its first alumni representative to the Board of Directors, officials announced Thursday.
Alfredo J. Velasco, who spent four years in the SOS program while in high school in Vail, Colo., holds a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a Master’s degree in computer engineering from Duke University. He worked for an environmental tech startup for three years and currently lives in North Carolina, where he is overseeing a new technology initiative for Lowe’s Home Improvement to take the business into the next stage of growth and innovation.
“I am both humbled and honored to be able to give back to the organization that has given me so much,” Velasco said. “I cannot wait to hit the ground running to bring my data expertise and passion for innovation to the board’s efforts to better engage the many thousands of SOS alumni, as well as help grow our individual donor base. Snowboarding became a big part of my life throughout high school and I attribute a lot of my personal growth to it.”
Also newly named to the board are Jen McLaren, president of Smartwool, and Tod Francis, a managing director of Shasta Ventures that he co-founded in 2004.
“Smartwool’s partnership with SOS has been tremendously rewarding and I am excited to bring brand expertise to further leverage and grow the impacts SOS is creating for both the youth across our country and the outdoors industry,” said McLaren.
Denver-based McLaren has been the chief financial officer of Smartwool since 2011, when Smartwool and Timberland were acquired by VF Corporation. Previously, she served as North America CFO of Timberland, and before that, held several positions at Arthur Andersen and Softbank Capital.
Francis’s Shasta is a venture capital firm in San Francisco that focuses on early-stage investing in technology companies serving the consumer and enterprise sectors. Shasta has raised over $1 billion in capital and is now investing out of its fifth fund of $300 million.
“I strongly believe in the SOS strategy of combining curriculum, outdoor activities and mentoring to help engage with youth and change lives,” said Francis, who enjoys backcountry skiing near Kirkwood (an SOS mountain), riding the Santa Cruz mountains and kiteboarding in San Francisco Bay.
SOS started at Vail Mountain in 1993. The programbuilds social values, develops leadership skills and positively changes the trajectory of underserved, at-risk and high-risk youth populations. Using a combined approach to structured mentoring (individual, group and peer), SOS employs evidence-based practices in a strategic and progressive multi-year curriculum, engaging more than 70,000 youth since inception.
“Welcoming Jen, Alfredo and Tod to the board of SOS is incredibly exciting because we are at a unique moment in time, both in the history of our organization and in the industry we serve,” said Kristin Kenney Williams, president of Commfluent Inc. and current board chair. “The Next 25 will build upon the incredible operational foundation created by Executive Director Seth Ehrlich and his team that will allow us to significantly scale our impact – and our board of directors is well poised to serve more children in deeper ways in more communities.”
Williams added: “Our ability to help foster diversity in snow sports participation, from a youth’s formative years through college and, or their entry into their community workforce, is unparalleled in the nation.”
According to Ehrlich, SOS operates at 23 mountain resorts in nine states, serving more than 4,500 kids from fourth to 12th grade annually. Program participants are 56 percent male, 44 percent female, and nearly 70 percent identify as an ethnic minority.
“Our first 25 years were just the beginning,” Ehrlich proclaimed. “The Next 25 present a whole new level of opportunity as we grow our local relationships and support therein by building awareness of our impact and inviting more local youth to join us on the lift.”
Additional board members include: Nate Fristoe, Dave Portman, Bobby Murphy, Wendy Carey, Bill Cotton, Phil Gosch, Rob Hofferman, Mike Lewis, Andrew Littman, Michael Reger, Greg Sullivan and Lee Turlington. Emeritus board members include: Dr. Claus Tjaden, Dr. Buie Seawell, Dr. Jason Glass, Ketan Jobanputra.