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SOS Outreach turns 17, gears up to get 3,200 kidson the mountains this winter

It was a snowy Sunday morning, and a group of middle school children were among the crowd of eager skiers and riders streaming into Vail’s ski village.

However, the group of middle school kids, unlike many others in the crowd, didn’t have the latest skis or snowboards, and some were equipped with borrowed jackets and gloves. A day on the slopes with youth nonprofit SOS Outreach was a treat, despite the fact that many of them live minutes from the lifts.

Dec. 21 marked the 17th season for SOS, which works to build character and confidence in underserved youth through outdoor sports. The middle school students were among more than 3,200 youth nationwide who will participate in SOS programs this winter. The group will ride a total of 5 times throughout the season as part of the introductory Learn to Ride program.

Supported by donations from 43 resort mountains, businesses and individuals, the participants are provided with gear, instruction and lift passes. However, the real benefit is the character value and leadership training the youth receive from consistent adult mentors. Off the mountain, participants do service projects, such as restoring a river bank or making and delivering Christmas food baskets.

“It’s not just about snowboarding,” said 12-year-old Luis Juarez, a Colorado participants. “I’ve matured a lot throughout the SOS program and learned a lot about myself. I’m taking responsibility for myself and my actions a lot more, and I’ve had a lot of fun riding.”

University Participant Profile: Isabella Delgado
University participant Isabella Delgado, 11, has big aspirations – the bespectacled, smiling sixth grader wants to be an actress and a “famous snowboarder.”

SOS’ programs have given the third-year participant a chance to learn the sport, something the family could not have afforded otherwise, said Isabella’s mom, Aliria Bello.

“SOS is a place that you can improve your snowboarding and also become someone in life,” said Isabella. “My Sherpa (adult mentor) has helped me a lot. Also, we get to give back by doing service projects like writing letters to the troops.”

Bello, a single mother who immigrated to the country from Venezuela, said she’s seen SOS have a positive impact on her daughter. Isabella not only excels on the mountain, but at school and in other activities. She loves participating in service projects, and she takes the programs’ core values – courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion – to heart, Bello said.

CO Gives Day Results
Colorado Gives Day was the single largest day of individual giving in SOS history. A total of 98 donations came in totaling $24,456, not including the Incentive Fund match. SOS would like to thank all of its wonderful supporters who made the fundraiser such a success.

As a premier event this year, Giving First’s Colorado Gives Day expected to raise a little over $1 million dollars. However, by the end of the day on Dec. 8th just over $8.2 million had been raised. More than 18,000 donations were made to 500 state charities in total.

SOS says farewell to Dan Ben-horin
SOS will miss program director Dan Ben-horin, who will be moving on after almost 5 years with the organization. Dan began with SOS Outreach as an on-hill Learn to Ride coordinator at Breckenridge in 2006 and joined the SOS team the following season as an AmeriCorps*VISTA overseeing programs. Since 2008, Dan has worked full-time with SOS managing youth programs and has brought an incredible amount of patience, compassion and experience to the organization.

Highlights of Dan’s involvement with SOS have included the hundreds of relationships he has cultivated, his wisdom in developing structure and curriculum for summer programs, and his way of balancing the idealistic visions of his team with realistic implementation. Dan will be missed by the students, parents, teachers, and staff of SOS Outreach as he moves on to pursue further education. We wish him the best!

Please Join Us for the Following Events
2011 River Ride Registration now open
Mark your calendars. The Colorado Eagle River Ride has been scheduled for Saturday, July 23. For more information or to sign-up CLICK HERE.

SIA/SOS Shootout
Janaury 26, 2011, will mark the second annual SIA/SOS Shootout Hockey Game at the SIA Snow Show in Denver, Colorado. The benefit game will kick off the tradeshow, which runs from January 27-30. The game starts at 8:45pm at the Foothills Ice Arena, and lasts until 10:15pm. If you have questions on how to get involved email Mike Gagliardi at gags@neversummer.com