Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the types of sports that anyone can just do.
Unfortunately, the truth exists that some sort of financial backing has to exist to play in the mountains. Not only does the equipment cost money, but so does getting to the ski area and getting up the hill.
As a youngster, my family didn’t have the money needed to fulfill my addiction to gravity induced fun on snow. My solution worked out for me, literally, as I began my career working for a ski area at 12 years old. What began as a position in retail shifted to becoming a ski instructor, then to working on the avalanche crew and so on and so forth…the fuel for my lifelong passion for skiing.
Well, fast forward to today and there is a non-profit organized to give underprivileged children the chance to benefit from a sport that has proven to help many youngsters find a path to happiness. Myself included.
SkiDUCK, or Skiing and snowboarding for Disabled and Underprivileged Children and older Kids, is a newly formed outreach helping youth experience the fun of being in the mountains. A true effort of collaboration, SkiDUCK is an example that cooperation can lead to greatness.
I was able to sit down and talk with the executive director of SkiDUCK, Clint Lunde. His insight, experience and foresight for collaboration is inspiring, to say the least. Here is what he had to say…
EoC: Please tell our readers what exactly SkiDUCK is…
CL: SkiDUCK is a national volunteer-based non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled and underprivileged children by sharing the joys of skiing and snowboarding.
We partner with local organizations with similar goals of serving disabled or underprivileged children. In areas where like programs exist, we work to assist these groups fulfill their goals by providing additional funding, coordinating with other providers, and sharing best-practices.
In areas where the skiing and snowboarding needs of disabled or underprivileged children are not currently being served, we seek to establish a sustainable model of service with local resources and volunteers.
EoC: What initially made you contemplate creating something like SkiDUCK?
CL: In the few short months since SkiDUCK launched, I’ve been asked dozens of times… “How did you come up with the idea of providing skiing and snowboarding for disadvantaged children?”
Without getting too personal, there are times in most of our lives when we face some really big questions. The past year has been one of deep reflection for me, and some of the questions I kept asking of myself were: What is my purpose? – How can I make more of a difference? – How can I better use my passion and skills for a greater good? – If money weren’t an issue, what would I be doing? – And, rather than focusing on a job or career, how can I turn my passion into a life-long vocation?
These questions and period of self-reflection can be a tremendous opportunity for anyone to discover new directions. In retrospect, I can’t believe the idea of creating SkiDUCK didn’t occur immediately! The concept of a national organization dedicated to providing opportunities for children to experience the joys of skiing and snowboarding is such an obvious and natural fit! (And in my honest opinion, a WONDERFUL CAUSE!)
Since August 12th we’ve recruited a high-quality Board of Directors, filed as a legal entity, applied for and received our 501(c)3 non-profit status from the IRS (which alone often takes 9+ months), created a fun and interactive website and social network, partnered with some of the top athletes in the industry (more on the way!), and most importantly… have established initial partnerships with ski resorts and youth service organizations to put children on the slopes for their first time ever!
In early 2010 we’ll begin to see the fruits of our labor as we kick off our first on-slope programs in the Lake Tahoe area! The success of those programs and others around the country will depend entirely upon the wonderful volunteers who come forward with their time, enthusiasm and talents – and the generous donors and sponsors who help provide opportunities for deserving children.
EoC: Explain the motivation of going from the dream stage of Ski Duck to the activation stage…
CL: The motivation was (simply-put) immediate once I made the decision on Aug 12th…primarily in order to get things in place for the upcoming ski/snowboard season.
EoC: How has collaboration been incorporated into the creation of SkiDUCK?
CL: The success of SkiDUCK if based upon the foundation of collaboration among three key groups; participating ski resorts, youth service organizations, and financial sponsors.
Collaboration with these organizations is fundamental to the existence and future success of SkiDUCK! SkiDUCK and our volunteers are primarily “facilitators” who are connecting existing organizations to assist each in doing what they do best. Our partnering ski resorts have ski and snowboard schools that are already teaching children the wonderful sports of skiing and snowboarding. SkiDUCK is bringing a whole new group of children to their programs, who may never otherwise have the opportunity to visit the mountains. Our partnering youth service organizations (such as the Boys and Girls Clubs) are already serving financially underprivileged and at-risk children in many ways, but lack the financial resources to provide skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Through these collaborative partnerships, SkiDUCK brings the best of both worlds together!
Finally, collaboration with our growing list sponsors and individual donors is absolutely critical to providing the financial resources to make the programs work. Like a tripod, each of the three legs of the SkiDUCK collaborative model are essential for stability and long-term success.
EoC: What is your vision for the future?
CL: As focused as we are on building partnerships and a successful model for SkiDUCK, all of our efforts are really about the kids. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and energy to launch a new organization, but the rewards of those efforts are immediately received in the smiles, laughter and joy of children learning to ski or snowboard for the first time. I’ve (we’ve) taught many children to ski over the years, and almost nothing compares to a child’s first day on the slopes or the first time off a small jump! SkiDUCK will open an entirely new world to children who deserve the opportunity that many of us enjoy every winter!
We’re serving school-aged children (from around age 7 to 18). Our hope is that once a child is in the program, they’ll fall in love with skiing or snowboarding and want to continue each year until they graduate from high school. After that, they’ll just have to get a job as a ski or snowboard instructor or ski patrol if they want to continue to receive free passes! (But hey, those are first jobs many of us wish we could have gotten!)
While our primary focus is a simple one, to introduce children to the joys of skiing and snowboarding, I’m absolutely certain that the impact we’ll have in many children’s lives will be much more significant and long-lasting; even life-changing. The mountains, the sport, and the good people these children will interact with have the ability to change lives in tremendous ways.
I’m a realist by nature, and recognize that I may be wearing rose-colored glasses at times when looking to the future of SkiDUCK. But in my minds-eye, I foresee programs either founded or partially funded by SkiDUCK at literally hundreds and hundreds of ski resorts across the entire country, serving tens of thousands of underprivileged and minority children every year!
I envision a national network of local community chapters providing opportunities to children who may never otherwise be exposed to the beauty and life-changing force of the mountains. Eventually, we’ll grow beyond U.S. borders to other mountain countries around the world. (It will be interesting to see how the SkiDUCK acronym will translate into other languages!)
And I’m absolutely certain that someday a child who first stepped into bindings through a SkiDUCK program will also step onto an Olympic, World Cup, or X Games Gold medal podium!
But setting all the grand designs aside, the truest measure of SkiDUCK’s success will be years from now when someone who first fell in love with skiing or snowboarding through SkiDUCK takes their own son or daughter to the mountain for their first day on the slopes. That’s the dream that always brings a tear to my eye.
Please contact SkiDUCK if your organization or community is interested in partnering to establish or enhance your own program to help children onto the slopes!