STORY BY MEGAN DEMAREST PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY STRATTON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
The Stratton Community Foundation organizes exciting fundraising events at
Stratton Mountain that intertwine winter sports, charity, and fellowship in Southern Vermont
Nestled in the picturesque Stratton Village adjacent to the majestic Stratton Mountain Resort, the Stratton Community Foundation (SCF) has been a non-profit stronghold in Southern Vermont since 1996. The organization was born out of love for the Stratton Mountain community, created by locals who cared deeply about improving the quality of life of friends, neighbors, and visitors alike. Though their home base is in Stratton Village, the footprint of the SCF extends well beyond, and includes 17 additional towns in the region. Their mission is as ambitious as it is meaningful and necessary, which is “to address the challenges of poverty that stand between a child in need and the opportunity to be healthy, safe, and educated.” To meet the needs of children and families in the area, SCF works daily throughout the year on programs and events that anchor its massive fundraising efforts. Two of their main annual events, #Shred4Nate and 24 Hours of Stratton, both take place at Stratton Mountain in the wintertime, both exemplify their connection to the region, and both have left an indelible mark on the community in more ways than one.
This year marks the 5th anniversary of the #Shred4Nate Memorial Alpine Race taking place on March 5, 2023. The event was named after and inspired by Nathan “Nate” M. Carreira, who had a passion for skiing and spent weekends with his family at Stratton during ski season. Nate’s friends and family started the race to bring awareness to teen mental health and to create a legacy for him that would touch generations to come. After Nate’s passing from suicide at the age of 15, the compassion emanating from the community sparked an outpouring of donations, establishing the Foundation’s Nathan M. Carreira Endowment Fund. Today, the Endowment supports vital programs and services for teens, parents, and schools across Southern Vermont with the goal of building resilience, healthy behaviors, school-based suicide prevention policies, and a strong sense of community. Nate’s mother, Karen Carreira, has shared that “everything that the Stratton Community Foundation does touches a child’s mental health.” SCF’s Executive Director, Tammy Mosher, agrees, saying “#Shred4Nate is intertwined with everything we do. We’ve really tried to be programmatic around it, giving resources to as many people as we can.” When considering the overall well-being of a child, which is a daily consideration for Mosher and her staff, mental health is a prominent concern. The Foundation focuses on issues of poverty, food insecurity, access to educational resources, and more—all of which have the capacity to improve a child’s feeling of security and happiness, and thus, their mental health. By directly addressing mental health needs through the Endowment, they are able to take a deeper dive into the heavy issue of mental healthcare.
Over these past 4+ years, #Shred4Nate has seen much growth in both sponsorship and supporter —people who specifically want to donate to the cause of mental healthcare. Last year’s event raised $70,000 and as with most Foundation efforts, they look forward to raising even more this year. Of course, the work they do in this area goes beyond one important event. They’ve worked with community partners like the Center for Health and Learning and Alexina Federhen, Miss Vermont 2022, who designed a program for all ages about stress, anxiety, and mental health. They implemented Mental Health First Aid training for teachers with United Counseling Services, whose staff executed the training, while SCF propelled the project forward and incentivized teachers to partake. “60 local teachers participated in the training and said it was ‘Fantastic,’” notes Mosher. It took some of the weight off teachers’ shoulders, giving them knowledge to use, should they see the warning signs of a child in crisis. “They just felt empowered,” she adds, smiling.
#Shred4Nate is not only meant to raise money and awareness for an important issue, but it’s also meant to be fun and competitive. Alpine racers of all ages have an opportunity to strut their stuff on the slopes, working to win prizes and bragging rights. With memories of Nate firmly implanted in their minds, they participate in something he greatly loved, paying homage to him, and making sure that with each cross of the finish line, the community will remember a much-loved young man.
It’s no surprise that another major, annual fundraising event for SCF—24 Hours of Stratton—uses the valuable resource of Stratton Mountain’s snow-covered slopes. The connection between Vermont and winter sports is undeniable, and Stratton Mountain Resort is well-situated to be the Foundation’s stalwart community partner for winter fundraising events. In fact, the pioneer of 24 Hours of Stratton was one of SCF’s original founders and a former vice president of sales and marketing for the Resort, Michael Cobb. Cobb wanted to produce something at Stratton Mountain that was inspired by an event at Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada. Both Mont-Tremblant’s and Stratton’s 24 Hours now involve raising a minimum dollar amount to ski day and night, with the addition of snowboarding and other on and off-slope activities to earn team or individual points—all with the purpose of fundraising for a children’s charity. Leading up to the debut at Stratton, Mosher recalls hearing from the Resort that SCF would be the beneficiary of the funds raised, and afterward, they were handed a check for over $300K. “This was a game-changer,” Mosher affirms. “It was one of those amazing opportunities that completely changed the growth and impact that we had—and would have—in the community.” After that first year in 2012, SCF partnered with Stratton Resort and created an opportunity to support local youth with an annual, signature event. Since then, they’ve been extremely active in the organizing. “The Foundation plans it, gets the sponsorships, pays all the bills,” explains Mosher, “and because it’s a ski event, obviously we could not do it without the partnership and incredible resources gifted by Stratton. Overall, the Resort annually offers over $100K of in-kind support.”24 Hours of Stratton is SCF’s largest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds going to support their entire mission. Starting off as a more competitive Team Relay Race, it ultimately turned into a fun, family-oriented event. There are still races for those who prefer competition, but in the past nine years, much has been added to increase the joy and engagement for participants of all ages and abilities. Additional events include nighttime trivia, snow boot races, tubing at Coca-Cola Park, a scavenger hunt, and more, with a DJ spinning tunes all day and night. New features this year boast an outdoor team dance-off, a badge-earning system, and the development of a mobile app to make everything easier for participants: check point status, looking at a Resort map, and communicating with others, to name a few. There’s swag and giveaways, as well as awards for earning the most points for each activity. In honor of Cobb, who passed away in 2014, the top fundraising team is awarded the Michael Cobb Trophy.
Diehard fans return to the Mountain each year like clockwork to relive the experience, and new visitors continue to come from far and wide as peer-to-peer fundraising has given the event a global reach. Last year, many people revealed that they couldn’t wait to start fundraising for this year after seeing a video highlighting the Foundation’s impact. The minimum fundraising amount is $300, and kids 11 and under can join for free, though Mosher says the majority opt to fundraise anyway, understanding the true purpose of the weekend. “That’s what we want,” she says, “to cultivate that culture of philanthropy.” Older students from local schools like Burr and Burton Academy, the Long Trail School, and the Stratton Mountain School also have teams register each year, adding to the overall community feel.
Last year, the event had nearly 400 people skiing on Stratton’s slopes. “We would love to see 500 people on the mountain,” shares Mosher, who has been with SCF for 12 years, serving in her current position for 11 of those—the same amount of time that 24 Hours has existed. “I’ve lived it,” she grins. “I’m excited to see everybody.” It’s clear that Mosher and the SCF team are closely connected to the community and work tirelessly toward its betterment. With a vision “to end the cycle of generational poverty by helping at-risk children become successful adults,” SCF succeeds in this effort by effectively using local resources like the Resort and immediately responding to the needs of its community, just as they did with #Shred4Nate. The Stratton Community Foundation is up to the honorable task of becoming the unofficial caretakers of Southern Vermont’s children, or as many have said, its “silent angels.”