SOS Outreach is a national youth development 501(c)3 non-profit that utilizes outdoor experiential learning to inspire positive decision making for healthy and successful lives. Every SOS program incorporates the six core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion, and humility. SOS mentors help students define and practice these core values as they provide a consistent adult presence for students who may not otherwise have a positive role model in their lives. Targeting kids with poor grades, low attendance and behavioral issues, SOS intervenes in situations that typically lead to high school dropout. The programs are designed to establish protective factors such as social skill practice, physical health knowledge, safe and supportive relationships, and community bonds. SOS teaches a year-round, multi-year progressive curriculum, focusing on character development, values-based leadership training, social justice advocacy, and peer mentoring.
(Figures are from fiscal year July 1,2011 - June 30, 2012)
- Total Program Days: 20,530
- Total Youth Served: 5,003
- Summer Program Days: 2,736
- Winter Program Days: 17,794
- Service Hours: 6,650
- Service Projects: 275
- SOS operates at 37 winter resorts in 11 states
- SOS has a higher conversion rate than beginner ski and snowboard lessons: one in four participants become lifetime snowsports enthusiasts- a key point in an industry that is struggling overall.
- SOS has brought more minorities into winter sports than any other charity.
- SOS has raised $7 million in cash donations and additional in-kind services bringing a total of $20.5 million to the program since inception in 1993.
- Due to its success, SOS has attracted a first-class board of directors including Harvard's Dean of After-School Education and executives from K2 Sports, Vail Resorts, and Intrawest.
- SOS incorporates pre- and post- program participant surveys to measure outcomes and ROI.
SOS Outreach offers progressive multi-year programs to facilitate long-term development of participants. All programs offer the value-based leadership curriculum that enhances the experience for students by promoting self-respect, positive relationships, social justice and positive values. Students discuss and discover the meaning of the core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility. SOS Sherpas(adult mentors) are crucial to the success, as they provide a positive role model and the necessary support and guidance for a transformative experience, and encourage the students to uncover the way these values affect the student's everyday actions.
- 1st year: Adventure programs are one day programs that expose youth to an outdoor sport. Students are provided with all the necessary gear and are able to experience such outdoor activities as rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, peak ascending, hiking, camping and mountain biking. The primary goal of the Adventure programs is to transition students into SOS’s perennial multi-year trainings. There were 1,239 SnowCore participants in 2012-2013.
- 1st year: Academy programs are two to seven day programs in which a new SOS Core Value is introduced and coupled with an outdoor activity each day. Academy programs empower students to make concrete connections between their outdoor activity and the meaning of the SOS Core Values. Students can participate in activities like five day Learn To Ride ski/snowboard programs, seven day wilderness trips, two day hut trips, or the 4th grade Monument trip. There were 1,423 Learn To Ride participants in 2012-2013.
- 2nd to 5th year: University programs are the most intensive program requiring students to commit to a four-year program. Each year demands an increased time commitment to community service and personal growth. Students engage in year-round values-based leadership training with a consistent adult mentor, take part in service learning and life skills workshops in addition to skiing, snowboarding, and summer wilderness experiences. There were 861 youth served through University in 2012-2013.
- 6th to 10th year: Masters or Junior Sherpa programs are only available to graduates of the University program. These students act as peer mentors to the current SOS University program students, modeling core values and assisting SOS mentors with group management. Masters students also participate in both summer and winter sports, and have increased exposure to mentorship and core values training with over 30 days of activity annually. Currently only offered at the most comprehensive level in Eagle and Summit program locations. 64 youth served as Jr. Sherpas in 2012-2013.
- 1993: Arn Menconi founded SOS Outreach, as the Snowboard Outreach Society (SOS), to improve the negative societal perception of the snowboard culture existing in the 1980s and the early 1990s.
- 1994: SOS Outreach organizes a snowboard competition and raises $300 for the Vail Valley Medical Center.
- 1995: The Eagle County office opens its doors and15 inner-city Denver youth try snowboarding for the first time.
- 1998: 200 youth try snowboarding at Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts, launching the five-day SOS Learn to Ride curriculum. SOS develops a character-building curriculum based on the core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion.
- 2000: SOS winter programs grow to serve 600 youth. SOS develops a multi-year curriculum which focuses on value-ba sed leadership, launching the four-year University program.
- 2004: SOS serves 1500 youth through winter programs. Service learning projects are added to the multi-year curriculum requirements.
- 2007: SOS changes its name to SOS Outreach to demonstrate its growth beyond just snowboarding. SOS opens full-time offices in Summit County, Colorado and Denver Metro, Colorado. SOS also launches SnowCore, a one or two-day ski or snowboard program exposing more youth to snow sports. SOS serves 3000 youth.
- 2008: SOS opens the Seattle office, expanding programs throughout the Pacific Northwest.
- 2009: SOS merges with Meet the Wilderness, a 34 year old organization that introduced youth to summer adventure sports. The merger enables SOS to serve 5000 youth annually and develop the year-round, multi-year curriculum.
- 2010: SOS opens the Tahoe office, expanding programs throughout the Lake Tahoe Region.
- 2013: Having served a total of 36,282 youth and celebrating 20 years, SOS adds humility as the sixth core value.
Since inception, SOS Outreach has grown to serve over 5,000 kids annually. Headquarters are based in Vail Valley, Colorado with additional outposts near Breckenridge, Denver, Lake Tahoe, and Seattle. In winter 2012/13, the organization partnered with thirty-two ski resorts in nine states to provide outdoor experiential learning to at-risk and underprivileged youth through downhill skiing and snowboarding. SOS Outreach has partnered with mountain resorts, governmental agencies, youth agencies, foundations, and corporations.
(Figures are from fiscal year July 1,2011 - June 30, 2012)
- Colorado - 4,187 youth (84% of total youth participants).
- Pacific Northwest - 494 youth (10% of total youth participants).
- Lake Tahoe - 248 youth (5% of total youth participants).
- Other regions - 74 youth (1 % of total youth participants).
SOS Outreach is dedicated to gathering quantitative and qualitative data to improve the curriculum. Each student completes a pre-evaluation survey when they register for the program and a post-evaluation upon graduation. SOS uses an evaluation tool called the “Individual Protective Factors Scale.” The scale was created by Professor Peter Witt from the University of Texas A&M and it enables SOS to determine if its programs are successful by measuring which protective factors in participants are strengthened. Participants in the survey are given a scale of 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly to answer questions pertaining to the protective factors. The program staff distributes the survey before the program session and again upon completion.
During the 2009/2010 season, SOS saw an increase in nine of the ten protective factors, while one category saw no change. Significant increases were seen in five of the 10 areas measured:
- Interested and caring adults (.25)
- Liking/perceived competence in snowsports (.24)
- Ability to work out conflicts (.20)
- Neighborhood resources (.18)
- Positive attitude toward the future/future expectations (.18)
Further, all program staff, volunteers and teachers receive a qualitative survey at the end of the program session. The survey provides important feedback on the impact of SOS programs and highlights opportunities for growth. SOS analyzes the surveys at the end of each season to identify program improvements.
SOS evaluation results demonstrate that the programs provide participants with the necessary structure, positive interactions, and opportunities to succeed academically, athletically and personally.
In 2008 and 2011, RRC Associates from Boulder, Colorado facilitated an in-depth survey of SOS participants. Some highlights of impact include:
- Almost all SOS participants believe that it is important to stay in school (96.7%) and intend to go to college (93.9%).
- Most SOS participants feel that SOS helps them do better in school (90.6%), helps them feel proud of themselves (92.6%), provides leadership opportunities (89%), and teaches them to be healthier (89%).
- Participants engage in exercise more frequently. Participants display a significant increase in hope for the future.
- 60% of college-age past participants surveyed were currently enrolled in college. According to a 2011 study by the Pell Institute, only 28% of high school seniors from high-poverty schools continue to college nationally.
- SOS participants scored higher than their peer group on measures of self-esteem.
In 2012, SOS was also the focus of a doctoral dissertation that investigated the process by which at-risk youth build resiliency. Dr. Lisa Schrader's findings demonstrated that the longer students are engaged in the core value based leadership program, the more they are integrating and utilizing the benefits in all areas of their lives. The opportunities SOS provides, including engagement with positive adult role models, and the longevity of its programs, create the organization's impact.
- Vail Partnership 2013-2014 Nonprofit of the year Success Award Winner. 
- Up2Us Model Program in Pro-Social Behavior, 2012, recognition of SOS Outreach as a best practice provider of Sports-Based Youth Development Programs nationally. 
- Royal Robbins Arward, March 2009, Recognition of efforts to instill a great appreciation of the natural environment in future generations.
- SAMMY Leadership Award, April 2009, Recognized Arn Menconi as a leader in serving minority kids and getting them more involved in winter sports.
- The 2006 Active Youth Summit sponsored by Harvard University Program in Education, Afterschool & Resiliency (PEAR), recognized SOS Outreach as a best practice provider of sports-based youth development programs. In 2009, Dr. Gil Noam, founder of PEAR, observed SOS programs in action and commented, “SOS’s programs offer leadership training, positive interactions and mentorship that have proven to provide youth with the tools they need to overcome their adversities and become confident, contributing adults.”
(Figures are from fiscal year July 1,2011 - June 30, 2012)
- Total Revenue: $3,347,513
- Total Expenses: $3,364,444
- 92.2% Programs
- 4.2% General Administrative
- 3.6% Fundraising
Board of Directors
- Robert Veitch, The Shaw Foundation
- Bill Cotton, Optic Nerve Sunglasses
- Dave Portman, First Bank, Vail
- Sue Hibbs, Resolution Graphics
- Mike Carey, Seirus Innovation
- Anthony De Rocco, K2 Sports
- Dan Gibbs, Summit County, Colorado Commissioner
- Dr. Cheryl Healton, American Legacy Foundation
- Brook Hopper, The North Face
- Sarah Jardis, Central Rockies Mortgage Corporation
- Bill Jensen, Intrawest
- Kat Jobanputra, Specialty Sports Venture
- Kristin Kenney-Williams, Vail Resorts
- Judge Tom Moorhead, 5th Chief Judicial District Judge Eagle County
- Dr. Gil Noam, Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency
- Chris Ryman, Booth Creek Ski Holdings
- Mark Satkiewicz, Smartwool
- Rick Smith, Vail Valley Medical Center
- Pete Sonntag, Heavenly Mountain Resort
- August Tarantino, Senior Information Architect
- "SOS Outreach About Us". SOS Outreach. 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-18. http://www.sosoutreach.org/page/about-sos-1
- "SOS Outreach Evaluation". SOS Outreach. n.d. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
- "SOS Outreach Receives Nonprofit of the Year Award". Vail Partnership. 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-21.http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com/general.asp?id=114
- "SOS Outreach Receives National Outdoor Award". Up2Us. 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-18.http://www.up2us.org/uploads/reports/up2us_report.pdf
- "SOS Outreach Receives National Outdoor Award". Transworld Daily. 2009-03-02. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
- "Vail's Menconi wins diversity award". Vail Daily. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
- "SOS Outreach Financials". SOS Outreach. n.d. Retrieved 2009-06-29.