Big City Mountaineers Celebrates 20th Anniversary

In 2009, Big City Mountaineers will mark 20 years of enhancing the lives of under-resourced urban teens through transformative outdoor experiences.

In 2009, Big City Mountaineers will mark 20 years of enhancing the lives of under-resourced urban teens through transformative outdoor experiences. Since 1989, BCM has worked to offer a new perspective to teens through weeklong wilderness backpacking and canoe trips.

In 1989, Jim Kern, co-founder of the American Hiking Society, was reading a local Miami newspaper and saw an airline advertisement that read “Buy one ticket and get a child’s ticket for $1.” He invited his youngest son and another young man from a low-income neighborhood in Miami to go on a backpacking adventure in Montana. That trip was the beginning of BCM – the next summer, six adult volunteers took six teens from two of Miami’s most crime-ridden areas on a backpacking trip.

Since 1989, BCM has provided more than 11,000 program days to 1,543 teens, through 320 wilderness trips. To mark its 20th birthday, BCM will produce a multimedia presentation including interviews with past volunteers, BCM alumni teens, Summit For Someone climbers, former employees, members of its board of directors and founder Jim Kern.


Unlike other outdoor programs that focus on recreation or education, BCM’s program uses its innovative format for traditional youth development goals. The setting of their program, which is inspirational in and of itself, is compounded by the significant interaction with adult volunteers that results from our 5-to-5 ratio of adults to youth for each outdoor outing. Their teen participants are drawn from pre-existing youth development organizations in many urban centers throughout the country. These agencies recognize the benefit that a program like BCM brings to their youth and have incorporated BCM programming into their offerings as a means of reinforcing each of their respective organization’s goals. BCM currently runs programming in four hubs: Colorado, The SF Bay Area, The Boundary Waters, and the Pacific Northwest.

Examples of agencies that incorporate BCM into their program offering include:

• A Kidz Hope – Colorado Springs

• Boys & Girls Club - Denver, Colo.

• Boys & Girls Club Seattle - Southwest Branch, Seattle, Wash.

• Chicago Youth Program - Chicago, Ill.

• Christopher House - Chicago, Ill.

• CO Youth At Risk - Denver, Colo.

• Colorado I Have A Dream - Denver, Colo.

• Denver Kids - Denver, Colo.

• East Bay Asian Youth Center - Oakland, Calif

• East Oakland Boxing/Smartmoves - Oakland, Calif.

• East Oakland Youth Development Center - Oakland, Calif.

• Girls Inc. Alameda County - San Leandro, Calif.

• Howard Area Community Center - Chicago, Ill.

• Little Village Community Development Co. - Chicago, Ill.

• Mercy Housing - Denver, Colo.

• Male Involvement Program - San Leandro, Calif.

• Mission Graduates - San Francisco, Calif.

• Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club - Chicago, Ill.

• Urban Ventures Youth Leadership - Minneapolis, Minn.

• What Now America - Berkeley, Calif.

Backpacker Magazine’s Summit for Someone event series is a fundraising program to benefit the at-risk teen participants of Big City Mountaineers. Each participant of this fundraising program has committed to raise at least $3,600 in tax-deductible donations for our organization. For general and financial information about Summit for Someone and Big City Mountaineers, visit the website at, call 303-271-9200 or mail to 1667 Vine Street, Denver, CO 80206.