An Unforgettable U.S. Open

The Chill Foundation was fortunate to take part in the Burton U.S. Open earlier this month and we couldn’t be more excited by all of the support we received while we were there. Throughout the week-long event in Vail, Colorado, many of our national and local staff members were there to welcome spectators and share stories of our success in the Sponsor Village.

For us, this year looked a lot different than it did in previous years. The first change that was noticed by many who came out was our Chill Party in Vail Village. We were at a new venue this year, moving from the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum, where the party had been for many years, to the amazing Bo Bridges Gallery. The space was incredible and the vibe was unbelievable. The venue was packed to capacity and the outpouring of support for Chill was indescribable. Special thanks is owed to Bo Bridges, James Deighan, and Fran Fields for hosting us and helping us create such a great event. DJ DC has also become key to making sure that everyone is having a great time listening to his beats. Our party has become known as the “unofficial kick-off” to the Burton U.S. Open and all of the money raised from donations at the door went directly to supporting our programs for youth across North America. Chill raised more than $6,000 at our event that night!

The other big change that we made this year, was to include more Chill participants than ever before in the U.S. Open. In previous years, we have taken one stand-out participant from each of our locations. This year, we changed things up and brought three participants to Vail from Burlington, Chicago, and Vancouver. We also brought an entire bus-load of kids from our program in Denver – bringing our count to more than 30 youth. Chill truly took over the mountain for a few days and these kids know how to shred!

Our participants were given an amazing opportunity to ride with Jake and Donna Carpenter, owners of Burton Snowboards and Co-Founders of the Chill Foundation, they met U.S. Open athletes and watched them compete, and had fun exploring Vail and riding all over the mountain. This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those youth who were able to be there.

It was so inspiring to see our participants’ growth throughout the week. They bonded with each other and shared stories that other participants could relate to about their struggles and challenges in life and how being given experiences like attending the U.S. Open and participating in Chill is helping them to overcome many of these obstacles.

They joy on their faces to be a part of this special week reminded us that they are why we do what we do. The youth we serve come from extremely challenging backgrounds. Many are dealing with mental health challenges, drug and alcohol abuse, some live in foster homes, or are in juvenile justice programs. The one thing that we focus on is their potential; that they are all snowboarders, learning together and their struggles don’t have to define them or what their future looks like. We focus on the positives and bridge the divide between our youth so that they all find common ground in just being a kid again and experience the joys of learning a new boardsport while connecting with other kids their age who are going through similar struggles. All of this is done with our passionate staff, chaperones, and volunteers who all serve as positive adult role models – something that is lacking for many of our participants in their everyday lives.

At our tent in sponsor village, our participants took turns talking with people who stopped by to learn more about our program. Many of our participants also stepped out of their comfort zones to do media interviews with local news organizations while they were in Vail to share their experience with others who might not have heard about Chill before. It was so heartwarming to hear them share their own personal stories of the struggles they’ve gone through and how Chill has made a difference in their lives!

Snowboarding is a powerful sport that bridges gaps, giving us all a shared experience no matter what our background is or where we come from.  No matter how old we are, riding together never gets old and the Burton U.S. Open is no exception. The passion and energy behind this event inspires us and we can’t wait to bring more participants back next year to give them unforgettable experiences they will remember forever! 

Lauren Madden