Rotary makes riding a reality for youth |

Rotary makes riding a reality for youth

Counselors help students put on their gear during the Rotary program.

Park City is a ski town, and therefore all of its residents should have an opportunity to experience the skiing.

It was this simple motto that inspired the Park City Chapter of Rotary International to start their youth ski program nine years ago. Primarily a service organization made up of influential members of Park City, the Rotarians make a commitment to serve the community. So, armed with an idea to enable deserving youth to learn to ski and a financial contribution from the International Skiing Fellowship of Rotarians, the Rotary Ski Program was created.

"We thought it was a great idea to get kids involved that would not normally ski," said Rotarian Russell Wong, who was involved with the program at its inception.

The program began as a ski program, but as snowboarding became more popular on the mountain, the Rotarians decided to focus specifically on riding. The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) provide eight sessions of lessons and practice time.

Counselors at Ecker Hill and Treasure Mountain International Middle Schools and Park City High School identify deserving youth. They are selected on financial need and, according to Ecker Hill counselor, Marie Shepard, the children are also typically very accomplished students.

"A lot of these kids are good in school, overachieving students. They are good motivated kids," Shepard said. " They aren’t looking for a handout. They are earning it through hard work."

Once the youth have been selected, they are provided with gear and equipment by Destination Sports and Park City Park and Ride as well as PCMR. According to program organizer Courtney Stern of the Park City Chamber, the generous donation of equipment gear has allowed the program to grow from 15 to 25 youth participants this year. The youth area allowed to keep the gear so that they may continue the sport.

Wong says that he hopes to eventually receive enough sponsorship to provide the participants with season’s passes, because prices are often too restrictive for these families.

The youth are primarily Hispanic and have never been on snowboards before, but Stern says that they are more than eager to learn to ride and they pick up the sport quickly.

"It’s nice for them to be outside of school and experience the sport together," Stern said.

Shepard said that the Rotary’s program fills a need for older children in the community. Grade school kids learn to how to ski as part of school programs, but may older youth would not have a chance without the Rotary’s support. "They are so appreciative. They are so happy. They love the opportunity," Shepard said. Shepard said the program is also important because it helps the kids socially. It helps them to fit in better and understand the unique culture of Park City. She says it also helps the parents to become more involved. "We, in turn, get to know the families and that’s a great opening door to bridge the school with community," Shepard said. Often the learning process doesn’t stop there. Once the students are comfortable on the board, many of them begin saving up for a season’s pass, others have parents employed at the resort, which helps with the cost of continuing the sport. Shepard says that the commitment of the Rotarians has really made a difference in the lives of these students. "These people are dedicated to the program and have been for many years," Shepard said. "They are devoted and it’s a lot of work for them, but they always do it and they will continue helping those in need."

The program meets on most Saturdays and continues through the second week of February.

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