Despite having amazing wilderness and world-class recreation opportunities right in our backyard, it might surprise you that many youth in our valley do not have the knowledge or equipment to access those opportunities. In a unique partnership between a nonprofit and government entity, Mountain Recreation and SOS Outreach have joined forces to help kids gear up for life as they build foundations of healthy and active lifestyles.
The goal is simple: To serve our entire community more broadly than either organization could do on their own by offering as many life changing experiences in the outdoors as possible.
“The move to join forces was spurred by the idea that both physical and mental health can be improved by getting more community members into the outdoors and that together we are better,” said Janet Bartnik, Executive Director, Mountain Recreation.
Along with a new name, Mountain Rec has a new vision for the district which includes offering a broader range of high-quality programs that reach more of our community through new Explorer Camps. Mountain Rec will help families ease into the wilderness with an ‘indoor-to-outdoor’ or ‘frontcountry to backcountry’ staged approach in partnership with SOS Outreach.
SOS Outreach has earned a stellar reputation built on its mission to help underserved kids gear up for life. Their curriculum develops character based on their core values of humility, courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, and compassion. They have specially trained staff, proven curriculum and the USDA Special Use Permit to offer an array of wilderness adventures, three key pieces Mountain Rec was missing.
SOS will continue to use their funding to engage underserved youth in alignment with their mission and Mountain Rec will be able to utilize their funding to open these programs to our entire community, which is a key piece to their new vision.
“Our partnership was driven to expand access and change more lives beyond the mission aligned programs that SOS is providing. This partnership enables open enrollment for everyone and expanded access that SOS could not otherwise engage with our existing structure,” said Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director, SOS Outreach.
The golden key that unlocks the backcountry experiences for our community is the Special Use Permit issued to SOS Outreach by the USDA Forest Service. This permit is rare and highly coveted as many organizations and touring guides across the valley can attest. The Special Use Permit authorizes SOS Outreach to provide outfitting and guiding services with the Eagle-Holy Cross and Dillon Ranger Districts of the White River National Forest. These legacy permits were first acquired in 1975 by an organization called Meet the Wilderness. Three decades later they were transferred to SOS Outreach in 2009 following the merger between the two organizations.
With their Special Use Permits and expertise in the field, SOS Outreach will provide seasoned instructors to lead the SOS Wilderness Camps that include courses like intro to camping, backpacking and the holy grail – five-day backpacking trips at either the Flat Tops or the Holy Cross Wilderness. Mountain Recreation will step in by providing resources and offering scholarships to those who qualify.
Mountain Recreation has developed a series of day excursions called Backyard Adventure Camps for kids 7 and up which are designed to create a natural progression into the SOS Wilderness Camps that start for children 9 and up. Participants will learn the fundamentals of outdoor recreation skills as they cultivate an appreciation for our very own backyard. Kids can unearth new skill sets through Rock Climbing, H20, and multi-day Adventure Day Camps.
SOS Outreach operates under special use permit from the USDA Forest Service, White River National Forest and is an equal opportunity service provider and employer.
Eddie Campos is the Content Marketing Coordinator at Mountain Recreation. Contact Eddie at ECampos@MountainRec.org