My mother likes to tell me I was a difficult child—I was headstrong, stubborn, and hated being bad at anything. I tried a million different athletic endeavors (ice skating, basketball, soccer, ballet, karate) and never stuck with any of them. When I was eight, I got it in my head that I wanted to learn to snowboard. My mother—the same one who likes to remind me of my difficulty—also agrees with me that Blue Angels was one of the most defining experiences of my life.
After dreaming about snowboarding for a full year, reading the snowboarding magazines in book shops trying to prepare, eagerly eavesdropping on teenagers talking about “shredding in park,” or “catching mad air,” I showed up to my first day of The Blue Angels Youth Ski & Snowboard Program, ready to be a snowboarder. I was horrible. But I remembered my excitement and resolved to try atleast for a day. I didn’t improve much, and that resolve extended to the end of program. On the last run of our last day, I still had nothing to show for what was the longest amount of time I’d ever put into learning anything new that I wasn’t naturally good at—but I was determined. I started at the top of the hill and fell most of the way down. At the last moment, I successfully turned onto my toes and the most glorious feeling of triumph and pride washed over me. I had never worked so hard for anything in my life—and I was hooked on snowboarding.
I returned the next year and my instructor was patient and willing to put in the time and energy into making me a better snowboarder. Every milestone I hit, I learned the tremendous reward for hard work, and realized that I didn’t have to be good at everything right from the get-go. Everyone in my group was better than me. But Blue Angel Snow was filled with like-minded people and created an atmosphere of support rather than rivalry. There was competition, but it was structured in a way that challenged me to improve—not only in terms of my snowboarding abilities, but also in terms of bringing out these qualities of determination and self-acceptance. I kept going back to Blue Angel Snow and when I was old enough, I became a youth chaperone so that I could try to give the same experience to other kids in the program—I found my calling.
Ten years later, after years of experience working with underserved youth and a strong-as-ever obsession with snowboarding, I found the Chill Foundation, a non-profit that inspires youth to overcome the challenges of their everyday lives through board sports. Like Blue Angel Snow, we are committed to helping youth reach their full potential by pairing natural resiliency with a passion (snowboarding) to help them reframe their tenacity toward positive goals. We work with six pillars that any snowboarder would need on the mountain (or person would need to be successful): respect, patience, persistence, responsibility, courage, and pride.
Blue Angels teaches these same skills, but our biggest difference is that the Chill kids would never have the opportunity otherwise. The Chill Foundation works with youth ages 10-18 living below the poverty line, residing in group homes and foster care, managing mental and physical handicaps, registered in the juvenile justice system, and growing up in underserved communities. In a sport known for its lofty expenses, 83% of our kids are enrolled in Free and Reduced lunch programs. In the historically white-dominated field (a recent SIA survey showed 67% of snowboarders identify as white/Caucasian/non-Hispanic), 91% of our youth are persons of color.
My mother may have thought I was a difficult child, but she always believed in me and luckily, had the means to give me the experience of Blue Angel Snow. I am lucky that I was able to find something that gives so much meaning to my life and helps others realize their own potential through a sport that gave me the same.
I am ecstatic to announce a partnership between Chill Foundation and Blue Angel Snow for this coming season. And I’m proud to highlight the importance of this opportunity to extend meaning and growth to children of Los Angeles, regardless of neighborhoods, incomes, or adversities.
Thank you for your help in supporting not only your own children, but many children who will prosper through conquering new challenges this snow season.