The Gift of Giving: This holiday season, reporters across Michigan put the spotlight on causes that mattered most to them. We share these stories with our readers and provide information on how to get involved.
BOYNE CITY — Challenge Mountain allows children and adults with disabilities to dream big.
That dream began with Darla Evans, a parent of a child with a disability.
Her daughter was confined to a wheelchair and had limited opportunities to experience activities with family and friends. In 1982, Darla took her daughter Chrissy to the National Sports Center for the Disabled in her park in Winter, Colorado, where she learned to ski.
By the end of the week, 5-year-old Chrissy was skiing with special equipment tailored to her needs. According to her organization’s website, she discovered a freedom she never knew existed, boosting her confidence and self-esteem.
The program operator refused to pay for one week of skiing. Instead, he elicited a promise from Evans that she would return to Michigan to start a similar program. Thus, Challenge Her Mountain was born.
In 1984, Boyne Resorts founder Everett Kircher donated the Walloon Hills Ski Area to Challenge Mountain. That was the beginning of what has grown into a year-round adaptive recreational program for individuals with disabilities.
After operating as a volunteer organization for 17 years, Challenge Mountain hired its first Executive Director in 2001. Elizabeth Looze currently holds that position. Currently, program staff manage her large volunteer base of 76 people from local and statewide communities who contribute more than 1,419 volunteer hours per year.
Challenge Mountain is supported in part by the Challenge Mountain Resale Store, which first opened in Boyne Falls in 1986. In 1990, the nonprofit invested in a larger facility in Boyne and moved again in 2016.
A second store opened in Petoskey in 2006. Total sales in 2019 surpassed his $400,000.
Recently, Challenge Mountain announced that a group of donors will match all donations made before January 1, 2023 up to $40,000 per dollar.
“This Challenge Grant is a great example of the Challenge Mountain motto in action. At Challenge Mountain, the participant experience is paramount: smiles, bonds, laughter, personal bests for everyone involved. The commitment of our generous supporters makes these experiences possible.
The organization serves many students enrolled in nearby special education classrooms and provides materials and services to schools free of charge. Nonprofits are gearing up for an exciting winter season.
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“Our biggest variable is Mother Nature,” says Looze. “We always hope that it will snow a lot.”
To donate or volunteer, visit challengemtn.org.
— Please contact reporter Annie Doyle at (231) 675-0099 or firstname.lastname@example.org.