Challenge Mountain History
Challenge Mountain began as a dream of Darla Evans, a parent of a child living with a disability. Her daughter was confined to a wheelchair with limited opportunities available for her to experience activities with family and friends. In 1982, Darla took her daughter, Chrissy, to the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado so she could learn to ski like her siblings and friends.
By the end of the week, five year-old Chrissy was skiing with special equipment adapted to her needs. She discovered a freedom she had never known, self-confidence and self-esteem!
The operator of the Winter Park program refused to accept payment for the week of skiing. Instead, he elicited a promise from Darla that she return to Michigan and begin a similar program, and this is where the story of Challenge Mountain begins.
In 1984 Everett Kircher, founder of Boyne Resorts, donated Walloon Hills Ski Area to Challenge Mountain and Darla’s dream became a reality. This was just the beginning to what has grown to become year-round adaptive recreation programs and opportunities for individuals living with disabilities in northern Michigan and beyond.
Challenge Mountain believes that having access to and participating in recreational and social activities is integral to the well-being and a fulfilling life for every person. With limited activities available to individuals living with disabilities to experience all northern Michigan has to offer, Challenge Mountain has grown over the last 30 years from offering only winter programs to providing over 1,900 individual experiences to new and returning participants and their families through various programs and outings all year long!
The heart and soul of Challenge Mountain are the dedicated and passionate volunteers who continue to donate their time and expertise to ensure year-round programming is a success. After 17 years of operating as a solely volunteer organization, Challenge Mountain hired its first Executive Director in 2001. Today Challenge Mountain program staff manages an extensive volunteer base that includes 76 individuals from our local and statewide communities who contribute over 1,419 volunteer hours annually.
Challenge Mountain programming is supported financially through proceeds from the Challenge Mountain Resale Store which first opened its doors in Boyne Falls in 1986. Within five years, the store had outgrown the original location and in 1990 the organization invested in a larger facility in Boyne City. A second resale store was started in Petoskey in 2006. After more than 26 years in its longtime location on M-75, the Boyne City Resale Store moved in 2016 to a new location that has allowed the store to grow as a primary funding source for Challenge Mountain programming and a tremendous community resource. In 2019, Resale Store gross sales totaled more than $400,000. More than 56 Resale Store volunteers donate over 11,955 hours of in-kind labor each year.
Reach for the stars, anything is possible and the sky’s the limit are phrases we all want to hear and believe. At Challenge Mountain these words are put into action and their power is instilled in every participant, staff member, volunteer, family member, and friend. Past, present and future, Challenge Mountain represents opportunity – the opportunity to show support, take risks, conquer challenges and achieve our greatest potential, together.
Darla Evans takes her daughter Chrissy to the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado to learn to ski and returns to Michigan to start an adaptive ski program.
Everett Kircher, founder of Boyne Resorts, donates Walloon Hills Ski Area to Challenge Mountain and Darla’s dream becomes a reality.
The Resale Store Opens in Boyne Falls and is established as a funding source for Challenge Mountain Programs.
The Challenge Mountain ski program begins.
Partner programs begin with the first visit from Camp Quality.
Group programs grow to include Michigan Parents of Visually Impaired Children, Deaf and Blind Central, Great Lakes Burn Camp.
Summer camps and watersports program begins.
Challenge Mountain hosts the first Special Olympics, Area 33.
First Executive Director hired.
The Nightmare at Challenge Mountain debuts and becomes the organization’s largest fundraiser.
Para-Olympian/X-games Champion Tyler Walker visits to share his inspiring story.
Petoskey Resale Store Opens serving as a funding source for Challenge Mountain programs.
Partnership with Spirit Day Camp begins and summer recreational activities and social outings are incorporated into year-round programming.
Challenge sailboat is christened for adaptive sailing program.
First professional Program Director hired and Challenge Mountain expands year-round programming to include biking, kayaking, equine therapy and ropes challenge course activities. Challenge Mountain participates in the Boyne Thunder Poker Run as a charity partner providing volunteer time and services.
Challenge Mountain celebrates 30 years and Mike Hurchick is honored as the Volunteer of the Year by the Boyne Area Chamber for his 25+ years of volunteerism with Challenge Mountain. Challenge Mountain purchases a building at 1100 Boyne Avenue in Boyne City to be renovated for the new Resale Store.
The opening of the new Challenge Mountain Resale Store was made possible through the generous support of individuals, businesses, community organizations and foundations making $168,173 in financial contributions. Eighteen volunteers gave 570 hours or $14,000 of in-kind labor during renovations while local contractors and donors provided $46,994 in donated time and materials.
Challenge Mountain receives two community pride awards from the Boyne Area Chamber and City of Boyne City recognizing Challenge Mountain’s building improvements at the new Resale Store. Challenge Mountain’s ability to connect individuals living with disabilities with life-enhancing recreational opportunities grows as a result of the Resale Store success. Challenge Mountain provided more than 1,900 individual life-enhancing recreational experiences like adaptive winter sports, biking, equine therapy, ropes adventure course and water sports.
The George Armstrong Spirit Day Camp Fund at the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation and the Challenge Mountain Spirit Day Camp Fund at the Charlevoix County Community Foundation are established as endowments to support Spirit Day Camp into the future.