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Grassroots to Grand Stage Seeks to Bridge the Gap for Marginalized Children
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Saturday, May 6, 2023
 

BY HEATHER FOSTER

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation has introduced the Grassroots to Grand Stage Diversity Project to inspire ethnic and cultural diversity, inclusion and opportunity for historically marginalized children to participate in SVSEF’s competitive sports programming.

The project aims to raise $100,000 to help support children who show a desire to continue, improve, and advance as winter sport athletes.

The Grassroots to Grand Stage Diversity Project (G2G Project) is designed to integrate with current learn-to-ski-and-ride programming at Rotarun Ski Area and Quigley Nordic trails. The project will provide further support and education for athletes and families as they pursue higher level journeys with SVSEF across the spectrum of snowsport disciplines, from alpine and cross country, to snowboarding and other SVSEF programs.

“The free learn-to-ski Rota-Rippers afterschool program has been incredibly successful in getting first generation skiers on the mountain,” said Sam Adicoff, Volunteer Coordinator for the G2G Project. “As a volunteer Rota-Rippers coach, I noticed that each year there were kids that really loved the program and were yearning for more. That was the genesis for this Grassroots to Grand Stage Diversity Project—providing funding and support for these kids to move into the competitive SVSEF programs.”

Support through grants, donors, and key partners in our community is pivotal to the G2G Project’s success. Scholarships including ski passes from Sun Valley Company, equipment leases from Sturtevant’s and PK’s Ski & Sports, SVSEF tuition support, and other mission-aligned expenses are some of the means of support provided to these young athletes so they can fully engage in the process and the opportunity before them. Cultivating healthy habits, skills and passions also contribute to the project’s intent to foster well-rounded child development for youth in our mountain community.

“We recognize there are both cultural and financial hurdles that need to be addressed,” said Scott McGrew, Executive Director at SVSEF. “The G2G Project is the seed that can grow and beget further opportunities early and often for local families—specifically athletic opportunities to inspire deeper awareness and inclusion, which we’ve seen have lasting and profound implications on the life of a child.”

Fernanda Hurtado was six years old when she took her first turns on skis as part of the Rota-Rippers after-school program. She was inspired while watching the 2018 Winter Olympics on TV and hasn’t looked back. Now 11 years old, Fernanda has learned and grown through SVSEF Alpine’s LASAR program, Baldy Devo and Mini World Cup teams, and is now a member of the Alpine U12 Travel Team. “My favorite thing about ski racing is the speed and the gates—it’s fun and it makes me feel good!” said Hurtado. “There are many things I like about being a part of SVSEF, but my favorite thing is the people and coaches.”

“Fernanda brings a contagious smile and a positive, driven attitude when she is at ski team," said Adele Savaria, Alpine U12 Travel Team Head Coach. “She is making new friends in her age group, which has been awesome to see her only continue to thrive in this environment.”

Following in his sister’s footsteps, Octavio “Tavi” Hurtado, too, found his first snow legs with the Rota-Rippers and has since discovered his love for the moguls on the SVSEF Freestyle Progression Team. “I love the jumps and the moguls,” said Octavio Hurtado. “The coaches and the community are what I like the most about SVSEF.”

“Athletes like Octavio are what make our program as special as it is,” said Alec Poster, SVSEF Freestyle Progression Coach. “Tavi inspires his peers with his work ethic and keeps the environment fun with his sense of humor. He’s an old spirit that continues to push himself and all who have the pleasure of skiing with him.”

“Whether Octavio is on the hill or in the air barn, he consistently pushes for improvement,” said Wyatt Wilson, SVSEF Freestyle Travel Coach. “I cannot wait to see the heights that his dedication will bring him to. And congrats on the flip!”

“SVSEF is like family for us—we are blessed to be able to have Octavio and Fernanda in these programs,” said Fernando and Nallely Hurtado, Fernanda and Octavio’s parents. “We can see how they have evolved in this world of skiing—it’s more than a sport for them, it’s their passion! The different programs they practice are an art of expression—they love and respect their coaches, and they look up to them.”

Athletes like Fernanda and Octavio, and families like the Hurtado’s, have really provided the inspiration for the G2G Project—and now an upcoming group of talented, determined, and powerful young athletes have begun to shape the desired goals and outcomes and will continue to help guide the future of the project.

Eight-year-old Eva Gonzalez, a 3rd grader at Alturas Elementary School in Hailey, is one young athlete who has helped grow the passion and idea for the G2G Project. Eva is on the SVSEF Cross Country Devo South Team and plans to join SVSEF’s LASAR (Learn to Alpine Ski and Race) program held at Rotarun.[RS1]  She is an eager and determined young athlete with hopes and dreams of becoming the best skier she can.

Linda Hernandez is 10 years old and in 4th grade at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum. She is also on SVSEF’s Cross Country Devo South Team. In addition to skiing, Linda has been doing gymnastics for seven years, and like many kids her age, enjoys singing pop music and her favorite artist is Taylor Swift. Linda’s favorite thing about the Wood River Valley is the snow and her favorite thing about the ski team is she gets good exercise and it’s still fun!

“My husband and I think sports are important in our children’s lives,” said Sirlene Nunes, Linda’s mom. “My son and my husband snowboard but I don't ski downhill. About four years ago I had the opportunity to try cross country skiing and loved it, so the next season I asked Linda if she would like to try cross country with me and she loved it. That's how she started and now she is in her second year on the SVSEF development team.”

Ian Lozada attends Hemingway School in Ketchum as a 5th grader, loves math class, and aspires to be an architect when he is older. His parents came to the Wood River Valley over 20 years ago from Mexico and his father Hugo works for AC Houston Lumber. “My favorite thing about skiing is going fast downhill in the mountain environment with the forest around me,” said Ian, member of SVSEF’s Alpine U12 Home Team.

Justin Armas is a fourth grader at Hemingway Elementary School, where his favorite subject is science because he likes building things. He is skiing on both the Cross Country Devo North Team and the Alpine Baldy Devo Team and his favorite thing about being on ski team is going fast! Aside from skiing, Justin has been swimming and playing soccer for five years and started learning Jiu Jitsu last year. He wants to be a hip hop singer when he is older. Janet and Richard, Justin’s parents, are from Peru and have lived in Blaine County for 20 years. Richard’s first job was working in the Seattle Ridge Lodge for Sun Valley Company, and he is now self-employed as a painter and handyman.

People of color are vastly underrepresented in historically non-diverse pursuits like skiing. The G2G project takes representation as an initial step in shifting this narrative, while working closely with parents and community members to ensure the process is relevant and equitable. And sharing the impacts of the project with the broader community while celebrating through storytelling, fostering new and existing partnerships with our community, and highlighting the achievements of these young athletes will ultimately inspire a virtuous cycle of inclusion for generations to come.

The vision and goals of the G2G Project are designed to grow and expand as they gain community knowledge and financial support. Funds raised for the project will be utilized to support children identified through the grassroots programs who show a desire to continue, improve, and advance as winter sport athletes within SVSEF’s competitive programs.

The G2G Project will make long-term commitments to these dedicated athletes on the basis of annual reviews, and project outcomes will be measured by continued athlete participation, growth of the program, and athletic achievement.

To learn more or to support the Grassroots to Grand Stage Diversity Project, contact Scott McGrew at scott@svsef.org or 208-726-4129.

 


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