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Philantopia: AVSC leaves no child behind

R.J. Gallagher Jr.
Philantopia

“The best place in the world to ski is where you’re skiing that day.” — Warren Miller

It’s July. It’s 85 degrees. So let’s talk skiing.

When you ask most locals in the valley why they moved to the area, it’s usually for a single reason: the snowsport of their choice. As we all know, there’s something about a day on the hill. There is the breathtaking beauty. The solitude. The camaraderie. The energy and excitement. The challenge. The reward. The memories.

And that’s where the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club comes in. AVSC’s mission is to provide all youth in the greater Roaring Fork Valley the opportunity to develop as athletes, and as people, through winter sports. Its mission can be summed up into three words: opportunity, excellence and values.

The club is open to all. A guiding principle is that every child in the Roaring Fork Valley who wants to participate should be able to. As a member of the club, every child will learn from the core values of commitment, teamwork and integrity.

There also is a focus on excellence. The club believes that no athlete should have to leave Aspen to find the training they need to reach their full potential.

AVSC uses skiing and snowboarding as a means to achieve character development in youth, providing challenging, healthy outdoor activities — alternatives to substance abuse, obesity and teen pregnancy. Participants spend an average of nearly four years with the club, developing strong relationships with their peers, instructors and coaches.

While only a small percentage of their athletes go on to compete at the highest levels, all participants are enriched with values to help them prosper in all walks of life, way beyond the mountain.

AVSC is the only club to offer five team disciplines — including adaptive — and a broad-based recreational program. It is the only local program that brings kids from all the school systems in the extended valley together for a fun and learning experience. All programs take place outside and put the participants in touch with forces bigger than themselves — and give them a personal connection to the mountains. AVSC is also one of the only winter options for kids, and participation does not require a tryout. So you see, AVSC really is the best of all worlds for our valley’s children.

AVSC has a growing list of athletes who have had success on a global platform, and a well-deserved shout out goes to current competitors Torin Yater-Wallace, Alex Ferreira, Wiley Maple, Alice McKennis, Katie Ryan, Julia Mueller-Ristine, Noah Hoffman, Simi Hamilton, Gretchen Bleiler, Hagen Kearney and Jordan Karlinski. These athletes are getting it done against the best there are, and they are all products of AVSC.

But as I write this column, one set of facts really caught my attention. AVSC was recognized as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s adaptive club of the year in 2011 and 2012, and Jonathan Mika was USSA’s 2012 international adaptive coach of the year. There could be as many as seven AVSC adaptive athletes competing in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Now that’s something to shout about.

Now that you better understand the guiding principles and the wide net that AVSC casts, let’s take a look inside the numbers to better understand the positive impact AVCS has on one of our most precious valley commodities, our children.

The club formed in 1937. Now in its 76th year, AVSC in the winter of 2012-13 had 2,258 members enrolled, 571 of whom were team members and 1,687 recreational Base Camp members.

In the Base Camp programs, one in five children in the Roaring Fork Valley school system is participating.

In the past year, 99 percent of enrolled members did not cover the actual costs incurred for their programs. More than 700 of the 2,258 members received scholarships. The average income for scholarship recipients in Base Camp programs was $35,000, and the average income for scholarship recipients in team programs was $67,000. The total carry for the club, including financial aid and scholarships in 2012-13, was $960,000.

AVSC is committed to making its programs accessible to all who want to participate. On average, program fees only cover two-thirds of program expenses. This year, the annual operating budget is $4.2 million, and AVSC must raise nearly $2 million to make ends meet and keep the established programs viable for another year. More than 80 percent of every dollar donated to AVSC goes directly to program expenses.

A breakdown of expenses from the club’s most recent tax return shows the following allocation of funds for the club: programming, 82 percent; administration, 10 percent; fundraising, 8 percent. My take is that AVSC is a tightly run organization and a very valuable, valleywide community asset.

If you are wondering what might be a good way to make a difference in the lives of our valley’s children, I would have you consider AVSC. The club has established the Bob Beattie Perpetual Endowment Fund to ensure that AVSC continues to provide appropriate programming, facilities, scholarships and financial aid for deserving future generations. The race is on, and the clock is ticking on the endowment. Now is the time to provide AVSC with a steady stream of funding so that it can continue to do its magic. For more information, visit http://www.teamavsc.org.

“Philantopia” is a monthly column of The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley. He has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including those of the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. His email address isrjg@forteinternational.net.


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