Big City Mountaineers Celebrates 25 Years of Youth Mentorship

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GOLDEN, Colo. (June 29, 2015) – This June, Big City Mountaineers (BCM) celebrates its 25th anniversary. In the last quarter-century the organization has positively influenced over 7,300 underserved youth through camping, hiking and paddling expeditions. BCM has orchestrated nearly 700 week-long expeditions and 75 overnight camps across 12 states, and engaged nearly 5,000 adult volunteers who have created lasting change in the lives of thousands of youth.

Twenty-five years ago, Jim Kern, founder of BCM, saw an ad in The Miami Herald for an airline ticket special offering a children’s ticket for $1, with the purchase of an adult ticket. Kern gathered his son and a close friend to take a hiking trip in Glacier National Park, but they still had a child’s ticket leftover. Kern contacted the director of Teenage Shelter Care, a program benefiting kids from troubled homes in Miami, asking if they could suggest a teenage boy who would enjoy a free backpacking trip.

The director suggested a 14-year-old named Raymond, and within a few weeks the foursome were exploring Glacier National Park, the Mission Mountains and parts of the Continental Divide Trail. That trip spurred the idea for Big City Mountaineers, and on June 26, 1990, BCM was officially born.

“We have provided over 36,000 nights under the stars for kids that would not have had the opportunity without Big City Mountaineers,” says Bryan Martin, Executive Director. “The outdoor industry has been behind us every step of the way with millions of dollars in financial support and equipment to run our trips.”

A brief timeline of notable BCM happenings:

1997: JanSport generously gifted BCM with $100,000 in funding. The donation allowed the organization to move its headquarters from Miami to Denver, in order to be closer to backcountry destinations and hire its first executive director. 

2004: BCM launches Summit for Someone (SFS), a fundraising event that allows individuals to climb mountains all over the world while raising money for youth trips. Summit for Someone has engaged tens of thousands of individuals—climbers and non-climbers alike—and raised millions for the organization. Mountaineering legend Ed Viesturs was particularly pivotal in the establishment of SFS and continues to climb with the program today.

2010: BCM launches the Colorado Overnight Camp —engaging children ages 8-12 in environmental learning and access to nature in a fun and safe way. “Overnight Camp has been an amazing success and we hope to replicate it in other parts of the country,” says Martin. “In particular, we plan to explore options in our Minneapolis and Duluth market thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor providing over 120 acres of waterfront property in Ely, Minnesota.”

2015: Today, 25 years after Jim Kern brought Raymond on that inaugural trip, BCM is still providing transformational wilderness mentoring experiences to under-served urban youth. This year the organization will run 32 week-long expeditions and 14 overnight camps in five different states. It will work with 25 community-based youth agencies, engage 180 adult mentors, and instill critical life skills in over 600 kids through its wilderness-based programs.

About Big City Mountaineers
Big City Mountaineers (BCM) instills critical life-skills in over 2,000 under-served young people each year by getting them outdoors with volunteer mentors for life-changing wilderness experiences. BCM’s unique model of 1 to 1 mentoring is proven to develop integrity, responsibility, improve communication skills and decision making abilities in youth from risk-filled environments through a nationally recognized developmental analysis tool. Given the opportunity to develop these skills alongside caring volunteer mentors creates positive lasting change in these youth who become more likely to stay in school and avoid drugs, gangs and violence. To learn more, please visit