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When kids are asked who their role models are, many point to professional athletes as figures they admire. Athletes embody strength, courage, determination, and discipline—and motivate us to set goals and dream big.


Kids at our Seattle program excitedly welcomed two such inspiring role models, former Seahawks and Super Bowl champions, Cooper Helfet and DeShawn Shead, at our recent program day hosted at The Summit at Snoqualmie. 


Cooper and DeShawn represented The Nature Project, a partner non-profit that shares our dedication to connect kids to powerful outdoor experiences. They leverage athletes to amplify their messages of courage, cooperation, teamwork, and perseverance. These athletes joined 52 SOS participants, sharing stories of perseverance and reinforcing the day’s core value of courage. 



“I think courage means that you have the ability to have a positive, pursuing attitude towards any goal you choose to accomplish,” shares SOS participant Valeria. “In my life I can be more courageous when I feel as if I’m a failure at everything… My own definition of courage states that with a fearless, positive attitude towards everything you do, you can do anything. I feel as if I need to work on keeping a positive attitude in anything that comes my way, and then I will be able to make those things go right.”


Youth from several organizations across Seattle and Puget Sound joined this event, including local schools, young men from Woodenville Group Home, and Cowlitz Indian Tribe. From middle schoolers to young adults, all gathered together to join the SOS community on the hill.


Cooper, founder of The Nature Project, was a longtime American football player (TE #84) on the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks, a Super Bowl XLVIII Champion and 2x NFC Champion (2013-2014). Having grown up in Marin County, California with a family passionate about the outdoors, Cooper has taken it upon himself to create opportunities for underserved youth to experience the wonders of nature, a perfect fit for SOS programs. Like many other athletes, Cooper wants to do anything he can to provide kids with the opportunity to get outside and get active, something that’s been a positive outlet for him throughout his life. 


“It was a special evening for our kids and they were super impressed that professional athletes came to hang out with them, and thoroughly enjoyed watching DeShawn’s first attempts at snowboarding,” shares Harmony Ma, SOS Seattle Program Lead. “They both rode with the kids the entire night, and Cooper helped instruct as well. At the end of the night they gave each of our participants a signed water bottle. It was a fun and energy-filled evening—and we even got a solid two hours of daylight to snowboard and ski!”



In addition to removing barriers for underserved youth to access and experience the joy of snowboarding and skiing—SOS programs emphasize the six core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion, and humility. By instilling and developing a deep understanding of these values, SOS youth are empowered to become role models to their peers and leaders in their own communities. The core values are an integral part of SOS and our goal of transforming participants’ lives so they may transform those around them. 


SOS sees the slopes as an inclusive place. A place where every child has the opportunity to try a new sport, to connect with the outdoors, and to laugh, learn and grow with their peers. Regardless of whether kids come from a single-parent household, speak English as a second language, or have been told, quite frankly, that this place isn’t for them because of factors completely out of their control—we strongly believe this place is for them. It’s for everyone. And, through this transformative experience on the slopes, we are removing barriers for kids in our communities to discover their true potential.