Blue River Youth Outings give at-risk kids a chance to have fun outside |

Blue River Youth Outings give at-risk kids a chance to have fun outside

BRECKENRIDGE – If 8-year-old Cristian Venegas was bored at all during his spring break this week, it wasn’t on Thursday. He was one of about 11 children who spent the day snowboarding at Breckenridge with the Blue River Youth Outings Program (BRYOP).

The best thing about the outing – aside from the fact it was free – is “you don’t be bored anymore in your house,” he said.

BRYOP is a collaboration between Mountain Mentors and the Sierra Club’s Inner-City and Mountain Outings Program. Eric Aaholm, Mountain Mentors diversity coordinator, and Larry Griffin, a Sierra Club outings leader, created the program after realizing there are more children who qualify for the local Mountain Mentors program than there are staff and resources to provide for them. Aaholm and Griffin also work with Robin Albert, Mountain Mentors workforce coordinator and Kathryn Hightower, the Blue River Apartments manager.

“Our goal is to reach kids who aren’t already in other programs,” Griffin said.

Currently, the monthly outings are offered only to qualifying children, between the ages of 8 and 14, who live at the Blue River Apartments in Silverthorne.

Eventually, however, Griffin and Aaholm would like to see the program expand to include other local children and even those outside of Summit County – in Leadville and Kremmling, for example.

This week was the first time 13-year-old Aminata Ba joined BRYOP and it was her first time snowboarding. She was more interested in having fun than learning to snowboard, she said.

Jenny Martinez, 10, has been on previous BRYOP outings as well as some with the Snowboard Outreach Society. She’s snowboarded now more than 20 times, but she enjoys BRYOP day-trips mostly because she can meet new people, she said.

The outings certainly present the children with the opportunity to meet new people and have fun, but the kids also are learning – respect for each other and respect for the environment, Griffin said.

“We’re introducing them to outdoor recreational activities with positive role models,” Aaholm said.

According to Aaholm, positive role models – or mentors – are proven to be the No. 1 preventative tactic for drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.

“It also gives kids an outlet to do things they see their friends doing,” Aaholm said. “Hopefully, down the road when they come out again, they’ll know how to (snowboard) and do it safe.”

Ba, Martinez and Venegas said they will definitely join future BRYOP trips.

Griffin and Aaholm hope to offer the BRYOP monthly day-trips indefinitely, but they need more volunteers for the program to become a success.

For more information or to volunteer, call Larry Griffin at (970) 262-0379 or Eric Aaholm at (970) 668-4150.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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