Today, Vail Resorts, Inc announced that Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, have decided that the initial focus for their recently announced charitable fund will be on mental health issues in the Company’s local communities. Katz and Amsterdam created the new charitable fund in October 2017 with funding of approximately $58 million.
Katz and Amsterdam worked with local community leaders and Vail Resorts employees to identify that mental health and drug and alcohol abuse were some of the most important issues that need to be addressed in these local towns, cities and counties.
Nationwide, suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 14-25, and mountain resort communities are not immune to this disturbing trend. In surveys conducted in the resort communities by various organizations, many residents indicated they don’t know where to turn for help if they have a mental health issue and if they did know where to turn for help, frequent barriers such as cost, perceived stigma and language prevented them from seeking treatment.
Unfortunately, because of those factors, many people still do not seek out support that is available, even when their employer offers free services, such as Vail Resorts offering of mental health and substance abuse counseling to all of its seasonal and year-round employees.
“Our local communities have felt a tremendous and very personal impact from mental health and substance abuse issues, which has been amplified by a lack of services and the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds this topic,” said Katz.
“Elana and I want to be a part of the solution as these communities put in place meaningful programs that will have a direct impact for the people that need it most.”
Katz and Amsterdam also announced that beginning in the new year, they would be bringing on philanthropic advisors to help design a grant-making process, facilitate community engagement, and ensure the greatest impact for the resources available from the new charitable fund.
A grant process for the charitable fund will be announced in spring 2018. To begin this new focus, ahead of the formal process, the charitable fund will be making contributions to the following non-profit organizations that focus on mental health issues in the communities where the Company operates.
$100,000 – Boulder Community Health in Boulder, Colo.
Earmarked for the Mental Health Endowment, this grant will support the mental wellbeing of Boulder Community Health patients along their continuum of care, empowering them to strengthen and maintain their personal independence as they invest in mental health.
$100,000 – Eagle County School District with MindSprings, Early Childhood Partners and Our Community Foundation in Eagle County, Colo.
This grant will support a full-time therapist position to work in the local public schools, as well as a Spanish-speaking specialist to work with parents of infants and young children. Last year, a grant source for school-based counseling services expired, resulting in the loss of two full-time counselors who provided direct services to students within the public schools.
$100,000 – The Summit Foundation in Summit County, Colo.
School based mental health services through the “Got Hope?” initiative will benefit from this grant. The initiative will identify youth mental health needs and gaps in services, find opportunities for collaboration, and develop specific strategies to address mental wellness and substance abuse among youth.
$100,000 – Jewish Family Service, Christian Center of Park City and the Summit County Health Department in Summit County, Utah
This grant will help three separate organizations, including: 1) Funding for a full-time Spanish-speaking therapist at the Jewish Family Service, which provides therapy to low-income clients one day a week at the People’s Health Clinic; 2) Hiring a Spanish-speaking social worker at the Christian Center of Park City to ensure that their clients receive support beyond their therapy sessions with services in housing, food and transportation; and 3) Expanding the Post-Traumatic Stress Program for first responders and Question Persuade Refer Suicide Prevention Program that trains individuals on how to deal with and maintain the life of someone in a suicidal state.
$100,000 – Whistler Community Services Society in Whistler, B.C., Canada
Whistler Community Services Society will receive a grant to benefit their outreach services, which provides free confidential support to residents of the Sea to Sky, and to their counseling assistance program which acts to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.
$55,000 – Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation in Truckee, Calif.
This grant will fund the Community House Consolidation, community-based organizations that work to consolidate, maximize and streamline their mental health services; mental health vouchers for counseling services distributed through Family Resource Centers; What’s Up Wellness, which provides depression screening and follow-up services to high school students; and Whole Hearts Through Gateway, a nature-based therapeutic program designed to support the most at-risk youth.
$100,000 – U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Park City UT
A grant to U.S. Ski & Snowboard Athlete Career & Education will provide athletes access to counseling including a focus on trauma and loss, substance abuse prevention, career development and additional critical community outreach programs. This program is dedicated to developing the whole athlete by creating innovative, personalized ways to support athletes’ needs.