It’s been said there’s some truth in stereotypes. If that’s so, the only people who enjoy the outdoors are 30-year-old white men in visors with dogs. Unfortunately, recent data from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), a recreation lobby and research group based in Boulder, Colorado, somewhat supports what all those Subaru commercials would lead one to believe: that the levels of participation in outdoor adventure do not reflect the diversity of our community. Fortunately, there are several organizations working hard to change that perception here in Colorado.
SOS Outreach, sosoutreach.org
What began as an attempt in the 1990s to improve the image of “dirtbag” snowboarders has warped into a youth-development non-profit that connects underserved, at-risk kids to adventure sports. In doing so, it’s had the impact of bringing more low-income youth into outdoor recreation who might otherwise be economically excluded from sports such as snowboarding, rock climbing and backpacking due to the prohibitively high costs of participation. Through sports-based leadership and peer mentorship, the programs offered by SOS Outreach have helped foster greater diversity on the slopes and trails while also increasing the likelihood that students from high-poverty areas stay in school and continue on to college.
Paradox Sports, paradoxsports.org
This organization refuses to accept the assumption that people with a physical disability can’t lead a life rich with outdoor adventure. Their mission, to improve people’s lives by providing adaptive sports equipment (and inspiration), has opened up adventures in ice climbing, rafting, backpacking and paddle boarding to folks without sight or limbs. “Our primary focus has been physical disabilities, but increasingly with the number of veterans coming home with traumatic brain injury and stress syndromes, we find ourselves working with a lot of invisible injuries as well,” explains Doug Sandok, the executive director. Paradox Sports published the first adaptive climbing manual, which is now being used to develop training programs at universities, climbing gyms and other adaptive sports organizations.
Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, boec.org
The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center has been around since the 1970s, expanding outdoor adventure opportunities for both youth and adults. Along with adaptive ski and ride programs at Breckenridge and Keystone resorts, it also offers innovative, multi-day wilderness programs, like camps for kids on the autism spectrum. Strong partnerships with organizations such as the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center and the 5th Judicial District are one of the many ways they empower a wide range of participants through inspiring outdoor experiences.
Don’t just read about it, do something.
Time —Volunteer for a day (or a season) as a mentor with kids through SOS Outreach. | Office Interns and Therapeutic Recreation Specialists are needed at Paradox Sports. | Train to be one of 250+ adaptive program assistants with BOEC.
Gear —Gently used outdoor gear including equipment, clothing and camp gear will be lovingly repurposed and distributed by SOS Outreach.
Funding —$50 supports one day of programming for an at-risk youth with SOS Outreach. | $75 supports an adaptive climber on a weekend adventure with Paradox Sports.