On the 50th year, Aspen’s Buddy Program enters Glenwood Springs to offer adult-youth mentoring | AspenTimes.com

On the 50th year, Aspen’s Buddy Program enters Glenwood Springs to offer adult-youth mentoring

Cassandra Ballard
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Kimber Kurr and her little buddy Daniella work together to make a bowl at the pottery night at Carbondale Clay Center in 2020.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Aspen’s Buddy Program at last is stretching into Glenwood Springs, partnering with Glenwood Springs-based YouthZone with adult-youth mentoring.

“We are expanding to offer all our programming to youth and families in Glenwood Springs,” Buddy Program Executive Director Lindsay Lofaro said. “We are working really closely with YouthZone to fill this need.” 

In its 50th year, the Buddy Program will be spending the summer getting the office set up at YouthZone in Glenwood Springs, and they plan to start matching big and little buddies up by August. 

What they will need from Glenwood residents now are interested adults to start signing up, so they can get the big buddies screening and registration process completed by August. 

The Buddy Program, began 50 years ago in Aspen, had expanded to Carbondale and more recently to Rifle. Now, finally, Glenwood Springs.

“To accomplish this, the Board of Directors has launched a $2.25 million 50th Anniversary Impact Campaign to fund increased costs for the first three years of this effort,” Lofaro said. 

It’s been a need in Glenwood for close to seven years, she said, and they have been working to hire staff to smoothly expand. 

For the 50th anniversary, the board chose to launch these programs this year in celebration, she said. 

Evaluations demonstrate that 100% of youth involved in these programs improve in at least one of the goal areas of social acceptance, healthy risk attitudes, interest in school, and healthy relationships, the program states on its website. 

Buddy Program has four main branches of offerings, from one-on-one pairings with adults, high-school to middle-school pairings, and outdoor recreation programs. 

Big Buddy Zach Benevento-Zahner and Little Buddy David hit the slopes for the Buddy Program’s annual Ski/Snowboard Day.
Buddy Program/Courtesy photo

Community-based program

The program pairs a big buddy with a little buddy and has the buddies meet four times a month for activities and quality time. 

This mentorship program is the strength of the overall program. Mentors receive a mandatory screening and training and then also when the buddies are paired.

The program then offers resources and activities for the buddies, with the help of donations and sponsorship. 

Little buddies can be referred through the community or in many cases through their school counselors, and big buddies sign up to volunteer.

School-based program

This program is offered in Aspen, Carbondale, Basalt, and now Glenwood Springs and offers the opportunity for buddies to meet at the little buddy’s school in the case of time restrictions in the community-based buddy program. 

Peer-to-Peer program

The Peer-to-Peer program matches high-school students with elementary school-aged buddies. 

This is a one-to-one mentorship that gives little buddies an opportunity to pair with students closer to their age. It also helps to build a positive perspective of high school for the little buddies, Lofaro said.  

“We will be offering that at Glenwood Springs Elementary in the fall to kids and working with high school youth from Glenwood Springs High School, so we’re excited about that partnership,” she said. 

These buddies spend an hour a week together, and she said she is already working with Glenwood Middle and High School. 

Maddy Fields ziplines through the trees while spending the morning with other Buddy Program members at the Glenwood Canyon Zipline company.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

LEAD Program 

Also expanding is the LEAD program, which involves trained staff taking middle school- and high school-aged students into the wilderness for different adventures.

The LEAD program gives little buddies more access to enjoy the outdoor recreation amenities offered in the region.

Trained staff members will take the little buddies out for different adventures depending on weather, regional location, and age group. 

Middle-school outdoor leadership program teaches 100 hours of leadership skills development and outdoor activity and three-day trips twice a year to different parks and other backcountry wilderness areas to help develop life skills.

The program also offers Youth Camp, which is a five-day trip in Moab for high school-age students as well as Dream Day Camp for grades 6-8 here in the Roaring Fork Valley. 

“We will be expanding those (LEAD programs) to Glenwood Springs High, and there is a Glenwood Springs Middle School program happening, currently,” she said. “So that’s been a really nice way to round out our programming and to engage kids in a different way.”

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at cballard@postindependent.com or 970-384-9131.