Snowboarding truly has the power to change lives. For some, it provides the opportunity to commune with nature, for others it's the chance to play for a living, and for still others, it can provide the opportunity to believe in themselves and see that the world has bigger boundaries than a bleak, inner-city existence.
If you don't believe me, you can ask Spencer Thompson-Cox. Spencer, a twelve-year-old kid from Denver, had the opportunity to go snowboarding for the first time this year thanks to the Snowboard Outreach Society (SOS). At first glance, Spencer's attitude seems hardened, which is what one might expect from a kid that has grown up in the inner city, but when asked about snowboarding, his face lights up. "I'm going to move up here (to Vail) as soon as I get out of school," he says. "This is what I want to do." Most kids in Spencer's shoes wouldn't even know that this is a possibility, but being given the opportunity to see first hand what mountain life is all about and to work with volunteer instructors that have made that dream a reality, helps these kids understand that they have options in life.
Founded in 1993 by Arn Menconi, SOS closed out the 2007 season by celebrating a fantastic year with a day of riding and a party at the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail on April 12th. Transworld Business was invited along to meet some of the kids, volunteers, and take a stroll down snowboarding's memory lane.
Over the last fifteen years, SOS has expanded from helping with a handful of kids at Vail to working with over 3,000 kids at 30 mountain resorts this winter. They experienced over 100% growth from last season with the help of nearly $150,000 in grants this year. Here's Arn Menconi hanging with Megan Flora and Maria Barsallo of the El Pomar Foundation, which contributed a $40,000, three-year grant to SOS this year. Chris Taylor of Vail's Ski and Snowboard Club is on the right.
Arn and volunteer Andrea Zorzuttii hanging with kids from the James P. Beckworth Mountain Club, a Denver youth agency. That's Spencer Thompson-Cox on the right. Each day out the kids get a theme word from SOS's values to govern the day. Saturday's word was compassion. Spencer defined this as "sharing in the suffering of others and offering aid to ease their troubles." Deep.
The Colorado Ski Museum, located in the Vail Village parking structure, could definitely use a name change to include snowboarding. As a two term county commissioner for Eagle County, Arn has helped turn a huge portion of the museum to the history of the pursuit of schralping.
SOS Staff and Supporters (l to r) Ross Agre (SOS Board Member), Jon Garrou (SOS Youth Programs Director), Dan Ben-Horin (SOS Americorps*VISTA Member), Sara Guiffre (SOS Americorps*VISTA Member), Seth Ehrlich (SOS Development Director), Michelle Hartel (SOS Education Director), Richard Strittmatter (SOS New Mexico Program Cooridantor), Dee Byrne (Vail Mountain Director of Ski and Ride School), Kristin Kenney-Williams (SOS Board Member), Arn Menconi (SOS Executive Director)