Improving the lives of our youth.

What if we could reduce the rate of childhood obesity and incidences of type II diabetes by increasing the winter activity of youth?

Photo of Shannon
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Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

We are on a mission to improve the overall health & fitness of our nation’s youth by providing access to winter sport activities, skill development, healthy meals & mentoring. I grew up in the projects of the Bronx & so skiing was not my sport of choice at first. From experience, as a kid growing up in an urban area, you are limited to what you see and with kids, if they can see it they’ll do it. One of the things we are doing is providing access and vision to all kids, as well as resources.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New Jersey

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New Jersey

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

We are within 70 miles of a major metropolitan area and look to provide access to 2.5 million kids. Currently, our participants are from youth serving organizations, with our top three attending neighborhoods being: Newark, NJ, Harlem, NY, Bronx, NY.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We are addressing the problem of kids not having access to physical activity during the winter months.

At the National Winter Activity Center we are providing our participants with what they need to have a memorable experience including a state of the art training facility, a passionate group of formally trained mentors, ski & snowboard equipment, and more, we are able to provide them with the opportunity to improve health and change their lives during their time here, if not possibly forever.

Methods that we believe encourage returning athletes are:

1. Mentoring – at a typical ski school, athletes would receive rotating instructors, at The Center athletes will stay with the same instructor throughout the season.

2. Reduce the cost for athletes: skiing is a very expensive sport, we help off set the cost of the program by hosting fundraising events, competition events, and grant writing.

3. Focus on the fun and adrenaline of the sport and spreading enthusiasm.

Our instructor/mentors use a "active learning environment" and SkillsQuest as tools to enable participants to master skills based on continuous progression with participant enjoyment at the core. Each of the participants will progress through a session based on their skill level. Every session day will involve instruction and fun based learning. These progressive skills are based on the proven U. S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s (USSA) SkillsQuest program. Annual projects from the USSA Sport Education Department will keep the instructors and coaches updated on the latest advances in teaching and skills.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

We are just for kids from youth serving organizations like YMCA's and Boys & Girls clubs.

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

The Center is a dedicated environment that provides youth with continuous access to skill development beginning with “never evers” through competition as well as increased physical activity throughout the winter months. Our goal at The Center is to increase life long participants of the sport, by approaching the teaching of the sport differently than your typical “ski school”. We have had a significantly larger retention rate than the national average which is 15%. Last year our retention rate with our largest participating group was 94%. We believe this builds a community of lifelong enthusiasts.  

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Last year the percentage of “never-evers” was 90%. These are kids completely new to downhill skiing and snowboarding. We are excited to add Cross-country to our curriculum and encourage another way for kids to get outdoors and have fun. We are looking to grow our program to 1200 athletes next season. Each athlete will have one program day for Cross-country learning and development.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $1mil - $5mil

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

The National Winter Activity Center was formed to improve the lives, health and fitness of kids through participation in winter sports. We are the nations first private 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated winter sport facility just for kids. We deliver programs in conjunction with organizations such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, local schools and other organizations to provide 35-40 hours of winter sports activities, during a time of year when young people typically opt to stay indoors and maximize screen time. We provide a continuous, progressive instruction and nutritious meals to our kids.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 25%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 75%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 0%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 50%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 25%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 25%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 75%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 25%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 0%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 75%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 25%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 33.3%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 66.7%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 100%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tesfaye Ayalew

Shannon, love your idea! Thanks for sharing

Photo of Doug Gould

Nice program to increase movement! Always a challenge in parts of the country that get a real winter, especially in the inner city. I didn't see anything about transportation. How do the kids get to the center if it is 70 miles away? Best of luck with your program.

Photo of Ivette Guillermo-McGahee

Shannon, thank you for your contribution to the childrens' wellbeing initiative.  Above, you state that this project is looking to reach 2.5 million youth - I am curious about how you plan to be able to find the space and resources to sustain this, and how mentoring relationships will be maintained with so many youth involved.  Looking forward to your response!

Photo of Shannon

Great questions. The 2.5 million youth is the total number of youth in our area. We plan to reach these kids by working with youth serving organizations such as YMCA’s and Boys and Girls clubs. We are in the process of planning an additional lodge that will house our growing population, which we hope to grow to 7000 kids by 2021. We rely on fundraising, grants and program fees to sustain our program.

In regards to mentoring, at a typical program, kids would receive rotating mentors, at The Center they stay with the same mentor throughout the season. Our mentors use a “active learning environment” and SkillsQuest as tools to enable them to master skills based on continuous progression with their enjoyment at the core. Each participant will progress through a session based on their skill level. Every session day will involve instruction and fun based learning. These progressive skills are based on the proven U. S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s (USSA) SkillQuest program. Annual projects from the USSA Sport Education Department will keep the mentors updated on the latest advances in teaching and skills. I hope that answers your questions!