Sure, I volunteered in high school to polish off my college applications by occasionally leading horse rides at Camp Kostopulos or weekly bouts of garden maintenance at Red Butte Garden. No, wait…actually, that was my Mom volunteering me to volunteer. I had no concept of how critically nonprofit organizations depend upon the time and skills of their volunteers until I worked for one, quite by accident.
On a whim in 2016, during a time of transition, I took a summer job as the Marketing & Outreach Coordinator with the Teton Regional Land Trust in Driggs, Idaho. In a whirlwind of 5 months, I executed 9 events and improved their social media and email marketing strategy. Knowing that my daily momentum directly contributed to land conservation starkly contrasted with the last seven years I'd spent working in retail and e-commerce. I began to realize that many nonprofit groups would cease to operate if volunteers failed to donate their time or skills.
Though not a track I expected to find myself on, the Land Trust led me to employment with another nonprofit, The IFSA (International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association) in October of 2016. The challenges of executing over 85 competitive Freeride skiing and snowboarding events for juniors and adults while managing over 3,000 athletes and 500 coaches has generated an impressive collection of spreadsheets. Without volunteers and passion, the IFSA would spectacularly crash. My time with these organizations led me to realize the importance of lending my time and skills to volunteering endeavors.
A recent volunteer project includes stepping up to photograph one of the YWCA of Utah's biggest fundraisers: Over The Edge. As Utah’s largest and oldest provider of shelter, transitional housing, education, and supportive services for women and children who have experienced family or domestic violence, the YWCA does vital work across Utah.
It was only after I promised to help out that I learned Over The Edge would involve strapping myself to scaffolding atop the 13-story tall Maverick Building in downtown Salt Lake City. Donors paid handsome sums of money for the experience of rappelling 175 feet down the side of the building to the sidewalk below. This would surely be interesting, given my rather intense fear of heights. No problem.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill getting ready to go Over The Edge
I awoke before dawn and grimly eyed the menacing silhouette of the Maverick Building against the stark blue sky. Thirteen stories suddenly seemed like eleven chapters too many. Though I was intensely uncomfortable up there in the brisk October morning, watching the sunrise calmed my nerves and I grew accustomed to the exposure. Witnessing terrified donors gather their wits and step off the edge kept me busy for the next 10 hours.
I observed so much courage on this day. Leo the Salt Lake REAL Lion caught his dreadlock in the belay device, Spiderman jauntily waved farewell, and I warmly shook the hand of Salt Lake’s District Attorney, Sim Gill. After seeing so many individuals face their own fear of heights, I knew I was capable of going Over The Edge. These small acts of bravery were nothing when compared to the situations and challenges that YWCA patrons may face on a daily basis. The fiery sunset helped distract me from the discomfort of rappelling from such a height and reaffirmed the importance of giving back to the community. It doesn’t take much to get involved—GO for it!
Me…about to pee myself
Wasatch Adaptive Sports
As long as I can remember, I’ve spent winters skiing at Snowbird Resort. I’d always admired and respected the individuals who fearlessly tackled the slopes alongside the Wasatch Adaptive Sports organization. In all honesty, I’d mulled over volunteering for WAS ten seasons or more, but I never took the initiative to ask how. Whether it was a fear of not being strong enough, not knowing where to start, saying the wrong thing, or feeling uncomfortable, I avoided stepping up. After one brave little email, I attended three days of volunteer training in November of 2017. I cringe to think of the experiences I’ve missed out on because I didn’t show up sooner. I try to donate at least 15 hours per month helping instructors teach adaptive athletes how to ski at Snowbird.
A little peek into the ski lessons given by Wasatch Adaptive Sports at Snowbird Ski Resort
Each lesson reminds me how grateful I am to be a skier spending most of days in the mountains. Skiing has shaped the trajectory of my life and nearly all the choices I have made. Donating a few hours to Wasatch Adaptive each week is a way to express my gratitude. For some students, just being on the snow, gazing around at the surrounding peaks was enough to fill them up. For others, one successful ski run triggered smiles, laughter, or tears of joy. Some students were so adept on their monoskis that I had trouble keeping up. The spirit and determination of the Wasatch Adaptive students have given me such a fresh perspective on life, skiing, and community. The mountains are an apt metaphor for the seemingly insurmountable challenges the students face daily. I’m looking forward to many more winter days spent with this organization’s incredible students and staff.
It’s all downhill from here…