Our
Mission

Small Champions transforms and empowers the lives of Eagle County, Colorado youth who are challenged with a variety of cognitive and physical disabilities. We teach these children that life is a rich and exciting place. Through repeated assurance and positive experiences our instructors and coaches help them grow, learn, and have fun.

At Small Champions we focus on children’s abilities, not disabilities.

Value
Proposition

To ensure that we are successful in implementing our Mission, the board of directors focuses on the following Value Proposition to ensure that all our stakeholders – including the kids and their families, our donors, and our partners – know what they can expect from the Small Champions Organization:

Transform and Empower: Small Champions gives kids with disabilities the rare opportunity to develop autonomy, independence, and self-confidence. Our trained adaptive instructors work one on one with the kids as they discover how to minimize their limitations and maximize their inherent abilities. This experience can be “Life-Changing”. They become a part of a group that gives them identity and friendship. They are taught the joy of being free to be who they are. Their bandwidth is expanded. They gain experience that may eventually support their ability to live independently and hold jobs later in life.

We measure our progress using qualitative behavioral and satisfaction assessments of our kids, submitted by their families and our instructors before and after each season.

The Best Instructors: Our instructors are the most important part of the life changing transformations, and our ski/snowboard instructors are the core of this group. All our instructors are members of PSIA/AASI and are employees of Vail Resorts. All have specific adaptive training, and many are certified adaptive instructors. They understand how to engage and motivate our Small Champions, so they maximize their abilities and expand their capabilities. We provide financial support to instructors who want to become certified or want to increase their level of certification. For our other programs and sports, we select the best qualified partners who provide the best instruction possible.

We measure our progress by tracking the total number of qualified partners, certified instructors, and the number of kids they coach each year.

Fun Activities: Small Champions is all about the kids. Our mission is to help our Small Champions gain confidence in their abilities and to help them use this confidence to grow and learn. The best environment for kids to thrive is a fun environment. We provide a host of fun activities, indoors and out, in all seasons, to ensure that every Small Champion can be fully engaged and have a great time on their journey. Most of our activities are designed for groups that allow our Small Champions to build friendships and connections as they have fun.

We measure our progress by tracking the number of programs we offer and the number of kids who participate.

Community-Wide Awareness: Our top priority is to teach our Small Champions how to maximize their abilities in an environment where they learn through fun, regardless of their disability. Our focus on education and awareness continues through our commitment to provide the kids with the best instructors who engage in ongoing development and certification. We also believe that it is important that parents, friends, donors, and the community at large are well educated about the range of disabilities and the positive impact that Small Champions can have in helping kids maximize their potential. Through outreach and education, fears are removed, empathy is created and motivation to belong and support is developed.

We measure our progress through the number of educational outreach initiatives we implement each year.

Donor Value: Small Champions would not exist without the generosity of our donors. It costs approximately $3500 a year to deliver our life changing programs to each Small Champion. We are committed to exploring every possible avenue to generate revenue, including large donors, small donors, grants, and charity events. We manage our organization in a manner that is as efficient as possible while being transparent to our donors, athletes, parents, and other stakeholders. In terms of efficiency, we ensure that every dollar received from our donors is maximized and spent on providing programs and other support to our athletes and their families. We utilize in-kind donations as well as volunteer labor whenever possible. Management and fund-raising expenses are always kept to a minimum. We routinely measure key processes that we believe are representative measures of performance. These results are published and shared with all our stakeholders.

We measure our success through the amount of revenue generated, the percent of repeat donors and the percent of total revenue that is dedicated to program expenses.

Trusted Partner: Small Champions relies on a network of local organizations and community members to deliver our programs to our athletes. Small Champions strives to be a trusted partner in each of these relationships through open and candid dialogue, regular opportunities for communications and a shared goal to provide the best programs possible for the kids.

We measure our success by the number of partnership agreements, the satisfaction of our partners and the percentage of returning partners.

Our Team

We are a group of passionate individuals dedicated to the disabled children of Eagle County. We believe in our ability to positively impact their lives through participation in our program.

Mark F Noble

Retired. International Business Executive. Father of a special needs child and Small Champion.

Kara Heide

Certified Alpine & Adaptive ski instructor with a nursing background. EMT. Founder, Vail Resorts Adaptive Ski Program.

John Weiss

Executive Director. Fully Certified Alpine and Adaptive ski instructor with 35+ years experience teaching and coaching.

Connie Miller

​Board Chair. Fully certified ski instructor with 30 years of experience. Aunt of a special needs child and Small Champion.

Steve Holden

Treasurer. CPA and healthcare consultant. Father of a special needs child and Small Champion.

Honore Everly

Mother of a special needs child who is a long time Small Champion.

Wylie Galvin

Fully Certified Adaptive ski instructor. EMT. Active volunteer in local special needs groups. Small Champions instructor since 2014. Active supporter of an aunt with special needs.

Donna Johnson

Secretary. Director of Transition to Life Program for Eagle County School students 18-21 with special needs. Educator with 30 years of experience. Aunt of a special needs child and Small Champion.

Kristin Jennings

Publisher of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine, Board Member, Mountain Valley Developmental Services; mother of a special needs child and Small Champion.

Testimonials

Jennifer Hefferan

In the past Richie has done a couple of sessions of group swim lessons, frustrating for all. He was so overwhelmed with the other kids he didn’t even get in the water! This year he has had 2 private swim lessons, so far, at the GRC, amazing the difference. He is in the water, enjoying learning to swim. I have no doubt my small champion will be a swimmer! This is such an essential life safety skill, thank you very much for the opportunity!

Richie has also been to 1 horseback riding lesson. I believe this program is a real confidence builder. His nervousness around the horse was gone before the end of the lesson. They walked and trotted and even rode backwards! He was so proud! Can’t wait for the next lesson. Thank you!

Can’t say enough about your summer camp! Richie has a blast. Only camp he has been to where there were no tears or tantrums getting out the door in the morning. He has fun with the other campers! Wish camp was a couple of days a week all summer. You guys do an awesome job! Thanks again for all you do!

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Elizabeth Koskinen

Special Education Teacher

Small Champions is an incredible program that allows my students opportunities that they may not otherwise have, whether it is skiing on the mountain, rock climbing in the summer, or meeting with others families for events, such as bowling nights.   It allows unstructured time for students with disabilities to engage in fun and motivating activities.  Often times, my students with disabilities can be overwhelmed with the daily tasks and learning that happens at school, and Small Champions is a wonderful program for my students to look forward to on the weekends and in the summer.  Many of my students have formed close relationships with their Small Champion coaches, which can go beyond just the Small Champions get-togethers.  My students also come back to school and talk about their fun weekend skiing with their Small Champion coaches.  As a special education teacher, I am grateful for the dedication that Small Champions has for our community, families, and our students with special needs.  Small Champions opens up many opportunities for our students and their families to experience in our community and I am thankful for their support and the community at large that supports Small Champions.  It is a much needed program for my students in this community.

Thank you, John, for working so closely with Eagle County Schools, to ensure that our students with disabilities, can have an opportunity to experience the many amazing things this community has to offer.  We appreciate you and all people that make Small Champions such a success!

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Karsen Williams

I have volunteered with Small Champions the last couple of years and I have met many people and created a handful of new friendships. I feel that Small Champions helps kids with special needs become more connected with the community of Eagle County. The atmosphere of Small Champions is always full of happiness and love which has a positive impact on everyone. The kids that are apart of this program are full of smiles and thoroughly enjoy participating in the amazing opportunities Small Champions gives them. Working with Small Champions always makes me feel so happy, and the kids involved inspire me to be a better person every day. This program is extremely unique and incredible.

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Kaden Williams

I have been a volunteer with Small Champions for 3 years. I have made many friendships while skiing, during the summer camps, and I even ran the Kids Adventure race with my friend Henry. Small Champions has a positive effect on all the kids involved including me. The amount of joy and enthusiasm these kids have is marvelous, and I am so glad I can share it with them! There is nothing like Small Champions.

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Kelly Herzog

Small Champions has given our daughter a feeling of pride and belonging. She is now able to partake in a sport that her family and friends enjoy.

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Kathy Mikolasy

Caden Roebke. Caden and I had never met until last Wednesday. He had never come out to ride with Small Champions because he really didn’t want to. He had a bit of a fear of horses and he just “didn’t want to”. I had met his Mom, Sally, at the Small Champions Benefit Golf Tournament in May and encouraged her to come out and visit us at the Ranch. She called and we made an appointment and agreed to just see how it went and if Caden wasn’t interested, we wouldn’t force the issue. But I, of course, knew better. So often this is how it starts. Caden came out and had the time of his life. I introduced Caden to Sox and a big smile appeared and from there it just got better and better. By the time we were finished riding, Caden sat in a chair and seemed exhausted. He was very quiet, but about every 3 or 4 minutes he would shake his head, smile, and say “I just had the most fun ever!” His grin went from ear to ear, he couldn’t wait to make his next appointment and he left feeling like he had just accomplished one of the most fun “things” he had ever done!!!!! The feeling of accomplishment and the pride that he left the Ranch with cannot be measured. It can be a life changing experience that fills these kid with self-confidence and pride that they may not get in other areas of their lives. Caden is visually impaired with no sight in his right eye and 20/200 vision in his left eye when wearing his glasses. He may not excel in some areas of his life because of this disability, but when he left the barn he was “6 feet tall with a feeling of accomplishment and pride.”

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Sandy Schroeder

The day before we took him to meet Kathy, we went to a stable where Henry could ride a pony.  He wanted NOTHING to do with that!  He did not even want to stand near the pony!  Then we went for our first horseback riding lesson.  Kathy introduced Henry to Sox and I simply stated, “he might not want to get on”.  Kathy climbed up on Sox, into the saddle, we brought the step stool over and she said, “Get on up here with me”.  He did.  He climbed right up!  As soon as they started moving together in the saddle, Henry shouted “Yee Haw!”  And that was that.  Now, we can’t get Henry off of Sox… he loves Kathy, Sox, the entire thing.  Again, no Small Champions?  No chance.  Thanks, Small Champions.

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Nicole Barth

Special Education Teacher

“I have seen many benefits of Small Champions! The bond between the small champion and the instructor often goes beyond the ski sessions.  Henry and Ben spend tons of time together.  Henry has written speeches about Ben for his classes and often talks about him. I have seen an increase in language in my students who are quiet or nonverbal. They have made connections to academic articles they read because of the background knowledge they have on skiing and snowboarding.

My students are so happy to talk about their skiing experiences with their coaches in school. Increasing the communication between teachers and students. They get a chance to make and see friends outside of school.  This is something my students don’t always get a chance to do otherwise. My students are becoming more active and physically fit. This is important as they grow. Parents get a break for a few hours. Not something they get very often. These are only a few off the top of my head! I am sure there is so much more!”

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Denise Gallagher

Nothing compares to the smile on my son’s face after a Small Champions event.

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Honore Everly

Small Champions has allowed our family to once again dream for our son, Sam.

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