SOS Outreach (SOS) is a national youth development nonprofit that changes young lives, building character and leadership in underserved kids through mentoring outdoors.
SOS Outreach was founded in 1993 as an organization intending to provide access to recreational activities in the High Rockies to low-income Denver youth. At the time, all youth invited to participate in SOS programs had never ventured outside the Denver Metro area. Residing in low-income housing projects with limited access to robust outdoor recreation, positive adult mentorship and risk prevention education, early SOS youth were selected based on their increased likelihood of engaging in high-risk activities that would subject them to early drug and alcohol use, academic and behavioral difficulty, teen pregnancy and court involvement.
As the organization developed, providing opportunity in the outdoors to Colorado's most disadvantaged youth remained the core tenant of SOS's mission. As the demographics of the state began to shift, the percentage of low-income households in resort areas surged. In response, SOS expanded its reach to provide programs in Eagle and Summit Counties, as well as Lake Tahoe, CA, Park City, UT, and the Pacific Northwest. SOS currently offers best-practice, evidenced-based and progressive programs out of 6 full-time and 9 part-time offices for over 4,000 youth nationally. Each program promotes self-respect, positive relationships, social skills and training in SOS's core values (courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion, and humility) combined with participation in outdoor adventure sports.
Founded in 1993, SOS has served over 65,000 disadvantaged youth by engaging participants in a values-based leadership curriculum. Since our founding, our programs have witnessed significant growth in participant numbers, expanded across winter and summer adventure sports and incorporated a youth development, leadership training and adult mentorship curriculum. In 2009, SOS merged with Meet the Wilderness, a 34 year old summer-based organization that enabled SOS to incorporate year-round programming, and increase positive touch points with youth throughout the integral summer months. This merger has allowed for consistent year-round programming for 3,000 SOS youth in Colorado and over 4,000 nationally.
Here at SOS Outreach, we do one thing - help kids gear up for life. Grounded in outdoor experiences, our program ignites a passion for adventure, inspires the courage to try something new, and instills lifelong lessons and skills in our kids.
It starts with gearing up for all the mountains have to offer, but in these moments we're not just teaching kids to snowboard, ski, hike, climb, and camp. Our kids learn to connect with their peers, mentors and community, all of which help them discover an unknown side of themselves - a side that can do anything, especially overcome their circumstances and come out on top. Our goal is to inspire our kids with a sense of purpose, ultimately preparing them with the unique skills and strengths to contribute to the world beyond themselves.
SOS Outreach current needs include financial support to offset program expenses as cost per participant totals $850 - but the max cost per individual is $125 with scholarships available. By providing low-cost participation, underserved youth are introduced to activities their families could never consider otherwise. Secondly, volunteers make our programs happen. Without the dedication of the hundreds of individuals that give freely of their time and talents, SOS would not be able to serve a quarter of the participants as we do. And in closing, SOS Outreach is always in need of lightly used gear to ensure that all youth are happy, healthy, and well equipped for the outdoor activities we introduce them to.
"[SOS] is truly a life-changing experience for the students and an incentive for them to improve and excel because they know that their ability to participate is dependent on appropriate behavior." - Ida Daniels, SOS Teacher Coordinator
"SOS taught me not to give up, and introduced me to the great outdoors. But more importantly, it made me conscious of my surroundings, my community, and taught me that I can make a difference." - Gabby, Colorado Participant
"Before SOS, I saw no future for myself and didn't know who I was. I was constantly putting myself down and it was hard to find a reason to be happy. My mentor - he's never given up on me. He is never quick to judge and always tells me the truth. My SOS family helped me become a stronger, new me. I've met so many inspiring people on my road to success, and they have all pushed me to be better. Not only do I smile more, but I've found myself reaching out for help instead of holding it in. SOS is not only an organization for kids, but a rescue center for most." -Elizabeth, SOS Outreach Denver Alum