SOS Outreach will put 2,005 ski and snowboarding youth on 19 mountains and across nine states between Feb. 1-9, representing the non-profit organization’s largest week of programs in its 26-year history.
Last winter, SOS celebrated its 25th anniversary. This season, it dived deep into its next 25 years with significant program growth across the country for underserved youth gearing up for life:
SOS sees the slopes of some of our country’s most popular mountain resorts as inclusive places. Places where every child has the opportunity to try a new sport, to connect with the outdoors, and to laugh, learn and grow with their peers. Through this transformative experience on the slopes, SOS is removing barriers for kids to discover their true potential.
SOS programs span mountain resorts and urban areas, providing access for the most underserved youth in these communities. On SOS’ expansion to the Midwest, Thomas Goodley, Jr., School Leader, George Crockett Academy shares, “The past four years of partnering with SOS have allowed our students in the urban area to have the opportunity to leave their communities to learn how to ski. This is monumental for our students.”
SOS started at Vail Mountain in 1993. The program builds social values, develops leadership skills, and positively changes the trajectory of underserved, at-risk and high-risk youth populations, from 4th to 12th grade annually. 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. Program participants are 56 percent male, 44 percent female, and nearly 70 percent identify as an ethnic minority.
Winter recreation in an encouraging environment isn’t all that SOS provides. Participants determine what community challenges need to be addressed through service projects such as cleaning up local rivers and water sources or delivering food boxes to neighbors in need. They participate in group workshops to learn skills, including cooking healthy meals and recognizing signs when a friend is struggling with mental health.
“In Park City, the SOS Outreach Mentor Program has doubled in size based on word-of-mouth references of youth telling their friends about their positive experiences in the program,” explains Abbey Eddy, SOS Utah Program Manager. “Our first group of Year 3 students are currently designing their own service project to continue to expand the program impact from an individual to community level. When deciding on a theme for the project, the kids identified a connection with nature and a disconnect from social pressure as one of the most rewarding aspects of the SOS Mentor Program. They have therefore decided to focus their project around environmental stewardship with an emphasis on community education and awareness.”
Seth Ehrlich, SOS Outreach Executive Director, said support from local communities to national organizations has never been stronger, allowing the program growth being seen this week.
“As we enter the next 25 years of programs and the major milestone in getting more than 2,000 kids around the country outside and on our mountains in a single week—we’re instilling a sense of confidence and purpose at the ultimate level,” says Ehrlich. “We’re working to break down those micro barriers that exist among our families coming from a variety of neighborhoods and backgrounds. We’re empowering each and every one of our kids to realize their full potential and carve their own paths for an incredibly bright future.”
To learn more, visit www.sosoutreach.org.