As published by Petoskey News-Review — December 29, 2022
As published by Charlevoix Courier — December 30, 2022
Michigan nonprofit helps adults, children with disabilities ski, snowboard and more
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BOYNE CITY — When they visit Challenge Mountain, children and adults with disabilities can dream big.
That dream began with Darla Evans, a parent of a child living with a disability.
Her daughter was confined to a wheelchair, with limited opportunity 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.
By the end of the week, five-year-old Chrissy was skiing with special equipment adapted to her needs. She discovered a freedom she’d never known — and a boost in self-confidence and self-esteem — according to the organization’s website.
The program operator refused to accept payment for the week of skiing. Instead, he elicited a promise from Evans that she return to Michigan and begin a similar program — and thus, Challenge Mountain was born.
In 1984, Everett Kircher, founder of Boyne Resorts, donated Walloon Hills Ski Area to Challenge Mountain. That was the beginning of what’s grown into a year-round adaptive recreation program for individuals living with disabilities.
After 17 years operating as a solely volunteer organization, Challenge Mountain hired its first executive director in 2001. Elizabeth Looze currently serves in the position. Today, program staff manage an extensive volunteer base with 76 individuals from local and statewide communities who contribute over 1,419 volunteer hours annually.
Challenge Mountain is supported in part by Challenge Mountain Resale Store, which first opened its doors in Boyne Falls in 1986. Within five years, the store outgrew its original location. In 1990, the nonprofit invested in a larger facility in Boyne City, which relocated again in 2016.
A second store opened in Petoskey in 2006. In 2019, gross sales totaled more than $400,000.
Recently, Challenge Mountain announced a group of donors will match all contributions made before Jan. 1, 2023, dollar-for-dollar, up to $40,000.
“This challenge grant is an amazing example of the Challenge Mountain motto in action,” Looze said. “At Challenge Mountain, participant experiences are what matters most: the smiles, the bonding, the laughter, the personal bests of all involved. The commitment of our generous supporters makes these experiences possible.
The organization serves many students enrolled in nearby special education classrooms, with materials and services provided to the schools at no cost. The nonprofit is gearing up for an exciting winter season.