SOS Outreach wants to take 370 local kids skiing and snowboarding
Nonprofit’s programs teach life skills
SOS Outreach is a nonprofit that uses outdoor experiences to give underrepresented youth a chance to break through social-economic barriers so they can thrive in life.
Through these experiences, and with supportive and consistent adult mentorships, the kids develop skills to make a difference in their communities, said Abbey Eddy, Utah senior program manager for SOS Outreach.
“We do that by breaking down barriers and providing underserved youths access to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding, the sports that have been typically and historically reserved for upper-class, and not very diverse groups,” Eddy said. “Through our great partnerships with Park City Mountain, Live Like Sam, Park City Community Foundation and (Park City-based ski and apparel brand) Armada, we can change that narrative and increase the diversity in the snowsports community.”
Park City Mountain Resort has worked with SOS for the past five years, and the sessions this year are particularly focused on understanding and managing emotions, due to the challenges COVID-19 has brought to 2020, according to Eddy.
“We’re all riding a roller coaster of feelings this year,” she said. “For the kids to be able to identify what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it is an important start for them to address this issue positively. From here they can continue to thrive by making positive decisions, healthy risk taking and stress management.”
The SOS Outreach curriculum focuses on four social and emotional learning skills:
• Relating well with others
• Responsible decision making
• Understanding and managing feelings
The mentors and other trusted adults brought on by SOS Outreach help the kids transition the life skills they learn on the mountain into their everyday lives, Eddy said.
“There are so many additional skills kids learn while being able to ski and snowboard with us,” Eddy said. “We see changes in attitudes toward school in attendance and grades. We’ve seen kids being more confident, motivated and even helping around their homes a little more.”
The need for kids to learn these skills has reached an all-time high, due to COVID-19, which has impacted many of the kids who participate in SOS Outreach programs, she said.
“Many of their families have experienced reduced work hours, loss of jobs and an upheaval in school schedules,” Eddy said. “You can imagine in a pandemic year how crucial it is for kids to build resilience and thrive. While the pandemic is certainly affecting us all, the inequity it exposes for the kids already struggling with systemic barriers is further amplified now.”
This year, SOS Outreach hopes to give 370 youths from Summit and Wasatch counties a chance to participate in its Learn to Ski/Ride program, which kicked off this month.
“We held our first ride day on Sunday, and we had 146 kids and 36 volunteers on the mountain,” Eddy said. “To have that many participants is a great feat any year, but to do that during a pandemic is amazing.”
SOS Outreach is still accepting kids into its winter programming, and the nonprofit is also looking for volunteers to help in the office or work with the kids on the mountain, according to Eddy.
Parents can register their children in grades four through 12 for the introductory Learn to Ski/Ride program by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and potential volunteers can also use that email address to inquire about volunteering.
Another way the public can support SOS Outreach is through monetary donations that can be made by visiting sosoutreach.org.
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam have pledged that all donations through Dec. 31 will be matched, up to $85,000, Eddy said.
“We’re still looking to make sure we can tap into that entire match,” she said. “I know we can because we’re so fortunate to live in this tight-knit Park City community where we all support each other and participate in philanthropy and the joy of giving back.”
For information about SOS Outreach and it’s Park City programs, visit sosoutreach.org.
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