Vail Resorts pledges over $2.3 million to Summit County nonprofits | SummitDaily.com

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Vail Resorts pledges over $2.3 million to Summit County nonprofits

"What we're here to celebrate tonight is community," Breckenridge Ski Resort chief operating officer John Buhler opened at the Summit County Community Grants Reception.

On Thursday night, nonprofit leaders mingled and toasted to the funds and hours invested into the community by EpicPromise, a branch of Vail Resorts dedicated to conservation and community. For the 2015-16 grant cycle, EpicPromise pledged more than $2.3 million to 50 Summit County nonprofits.

"We want all of the money to stay local, and want the focus to be on kids and the environment," Nicky DeFord, Senior Manager of Charitable Contributions, said. "Together, it's been a journey for the last seven years."

The program, dubbed EpicPromise last year, has consistently given at least $2 million to the community during the last seven years. A few of this year's grantees include the Summit Foundation, SOS Outreach, the Summit Community Care Clinic, the Keystone Science School, and High Country Conservation Center.

Keystone Resort chief operating officer Mike Goar was quick to point out the value of the 20,000 hours of volunteer work contributed by Vail Resorts employees.

"I also say more than the dollars is the work that all our employees do and the work our nonprofits do," Goar said.

But before the celebration began, Buhler paused to remember Grand Vacations owner and co-founder Rob Millisor, who left behind a legacy of charity when he died on October 9, 2015.

"He recognized how important it was to share what he had and what Grand Vacations had, that they were willing to give it to this community for all the right reasons," Buhler said.

He announced EpicPromise would donate $10,000 to the Millisor family fund through the Summit Foundation.

"It is truly an honor to do so, and he is truly an individual that will be sorely missed, but his legacy will never be forgotten in this community, there's no doubt about that," Buhler concluded.

The grant that gives back

Since the creation of EpicPromise, DeFord said that the program has focused in on larger, more thoughtful grants to more specific programs.

"We're trying to do bigger grants with more impact," DeFord said. "It's not like we just write a check — we stay in contact with the nonprofits."

One volunteer with SOS Outreach stepped up to share the impact the program had made with at-risk youth. Jessica Fernandez, and eighth-grade student at Summit Middle School, said her experience as a mentor leading a group of young skiers.

"SOS has not only taught me how to snowboard or basic leadership skills, but they've taught me how to incorporate courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility in my everyday life," Fernandez said. "At the end of a day, it's a great feeling, because as a team you all accomplish something and your community benefits from it. Everyone benefits from it."

EpicPromise also awarded a cash contribution to High Country Conservation Center's Energy Explorer's program, which provides hands-on education on renewable and nonrenewable resources to fourth-, eighth- and ninth-graders.

The program also pledged to support to the Summit Community Care Clinic's oral health care efforts, providing dental care to children in schools. EpicPromise will also continue donations to the Universal Breakfast Program through the Summit School District, providing free or subsidized breakfast available to all students.

DeFord added that the district had seen test scores go up since the breakfast program was put in place.

To top it all off, EpicPromise made several donations to the Summit Foundation, a Summit County nonprofit that has been in place for 31 years. In addition to the gift in memory of Millisor, EpicPromise donated to the Foundation's Patron Pass Program, used to raise funds for several local nonprofits, and to their scholarship program, which distributes about 100 scholarships to local students.

Summit Foundation Director of Development Kasey Provorse said that the Summit Foundation was able to raise $1 million annually to give back to nonprofits in Summit County, by selling 301 transferrable ski tickets.

"We ultimately support about $2 million in grants, and $230,000 in scholarships to about 100 students," Provorse said. "It's just the cornerstone of the Summit Foundation's fundraising."