SmartWool gives $85,000 in grants

Steamboat Springs company contributes to charities across US

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— Steamboat Springs company SmartWool doled out about $85,000 to 27 nonprofit organizations in its most recent round of grants, the company reported last month.

The company's advocacy program consists of two funds. A percentage of Internet sales go toward the SmartWool Advocacy Fund, and some proceeds from Web sales of "pink ribbon" socks go to the SmartWool Breast Cancer Fund.

SmartWool awards the grants twice a year. Recipients of this round include Yampatika,

Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Partners in Routt County and North Carolina Outward Bound. SmartWool started the program in 2005, President Mark Bryden said.

"When it began, it was pretty centered on the Colorado, West area," Bryden said. "Our desire, since our business is done throughout the U.S., is to more broadly represent the customer constituents - so, basically, to make grants that broadly are distributed across the U.S."

SmartWool's advocacy board, which consists of five or six employees, reviews applications and weighs them against criteria. The fund focuses on youths, a healthy lifestyle and environmental stewardship, Bryden said.

About 60 groups applied. Bryden said the $85,000 amount was normal for a round of grants.

Libby Foster, executive director of Partners in Routt County, said the SmartWool money would go toward the group's One-to-One Youth Mentoring program. One-to-One allows youths to participate in outdoor and adventure activities such as rafting, horseback riding, skiing and fly fishing, she said. SmartWool has funded the program in the past, she said.

"We wouldn't be able to offer these activities without SmartWool's funding, so we are very grateful," she said. "Over 75 youth will benefit from the SmartWool money."

Partners in Routt County reminds SmartWool of what the grants do, Foster said.

"We take a lot of photos of our kids in action and send them over to SmartWool, and I think they really enjoy that," she said, "because nothing is better than seeing a huge smile on a kid's face as he climbs up a huge rock face."

Sonja Macys, executive director at Yampatika, said her group received a grant in conjunction with Storm Peak Laboratory. The groups work together on a program that allows Routt County's fifth-grade students to study weather on the mountain.

Children enjoy and appreciate the program, said Gannet Hallar, director of Storm Peak Laboratory.

"I do think they're learning a lot, and they seem to be more inspired, which is what we're hoping for," she said.

SmartWool is giving a grant to the program for at least the second time, Macys said.

"In particularly today's economic times, we're very grateful for the support and think they're doing great things in our community," she said.

The company has donated nearly half a million dollars in cash and products through the program, according to a news release. SmartWool is accepting applications for its spring round of grants. Information and applications are at www.smartwool.com, and applications are due March 1.

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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