Underdog Foundation preparing to make a first appearance
In the past few months, you might have noticed some advertisements for a new group, the Underdog Foundation.
The nonprofit grew out of last February’s Park City Culinary Wine and Ski Classic. Organized by Blind Dog Restaurant owners Penelope Lehman-Kinsey, Derrick Kinsey and Chappie Lehman with the help of the National Ability Center, the event raised approximately $330,000 for the Ability Center and attracted about hundreds of participants. After that success, the organizers realized the event could grow to include other organizations in the community.
"We wanted to give people the opportunity to reach more than one group," said Lehman-Kinsey.
So in March, a month after the event, the group took the first steps to create the Underdog Foundation, which will organize the Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic, choose the event’s beneficiaries and allocate the funds raised.
"We said, ‘Let’s go forward,’" said Lehman-Kinsey, now the organization’s executive director. "It needed a full-time employee, year round."
"It takes a lot of time," noted Lehman.
The organization’s mission is to support youth education, arts, advocacy and athletic programs.
The motivation behind the name was simple.
"I just said, most of the kids and most of the people we’re giving to, they’re the underdogs," said Lehman-Kinsey.
The idea dovetailed perfectly with the Blind Dog name, and so the Underdog Foundation was born. This past spring, the organization appointed a board of trustees and applied for nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service. In June, the board of trustees hired the organization’s director of development, Erin McDonough, and began to solicit beneficiaries for the 2006 Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic.
"We’ve just selected the beneficiaries," said McDonough, this past week. "The dollar amount [they receive] will be selected in March."
McDonough said the organization sent out dozens of letters to area nonprofits telling them about the opportunity.
Thirty replied with proposals, asking for a total of more than $600,000. The Underdog Foundation chose 16 organizations, ranging from Arts-Kids and the Peace House Inc., to the Youth WinterSports Alliance and Intermountain Therapy Animals. According to McDonough, the money donated by the Underdog Foundation will be targeted at specific programs that fit with the organization’s mission statement. While the National Ability Center was eligible to receive money from this year’s event, that organization did not return a request for funds.
"We selected them as our beneficiary the first year," said Lehman-Kinsey. "They were eligible to get money again this year."
But, she said the Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic and the Underdog Foundation weren’t created to contribute to a single group.
"We felt very strongly that it should benefit multiple organizations," said Lehman.
The 2006 Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic will run from Tuesday, Jan. 31 to Sunday, Feb. 5, with many of the same elements as last year’s event, including the opening-night gala, a ski event, vintner dinners and the "Hair of the Dog" brunch. But, in addition to those events there will be new components, including a community night to kickoff the festival. The free event will highlight the Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic’s beneficiaries and will include a film from the Sundance Institute.
Currently, the Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic is the only event the Underdog Foundation is organizing.
"We’ve been approached to do a summer event, and we decided to put that on the back burner," said Lehman.
The organization might be interested in such an event in the future, he noted, but right now the Underdog Foundation will focus on organizing a quality production in the winter.
That should be a very attainable goal though, according to Lehman-Kinsey.
"We had such a great reception last year to what we did, we felt we could get national recognition," she said.
That would mean increased publicity and attendance, likely meaning more money for the Underdog Foundation and the organizations it supports.
However, in addition to the Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic, the Underdog Foundation will have a few other ventures. There are two "Underdog Rolls," from which a certain amount of proceeds will be donated to the organization, available at Blind Dog Sushi, and the organization will also have merchandise available at Blind Dog Restaurant.
Between those ventures and the Culinary, Wine and Ski Classic Lehman-Kinsey said the Underdog Foundation was becoming a significant venture.
"We give it just as much attention as Blind Dog or Deep Blue [Seafood]," she said. "It’s all interconnected."
Lehman said the Underdog Foundation was an opportunity to help Park City.
"It’s just one more challenge in life," he noted. "The community and Park City have been very good to our family and this is our way to give something back."
For more information about the Underdog Foundation, visit http://www.theunderdogfoudation.org or call 615-7900.
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The large fireworks shows scheduled for July 3 and July 4 at Park City Mountain Resort have been canceled because of worries about fire risk and drought conditions.