SOS Outreach kicks off for season around Lake Tahoe |

SOS Outreach kicks off for season around Lake Tahoe

Caitlin Row
SOS Outreach serves local children aged 8-18 with mentorship and ski/snowboard lessons.
Courtesy photo |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — When Theresa Papandrea transplanted from Colorado to Tahoe’s South Shore four years ago, she was tasked with expanding SOS Outreach programming around the lake. This will be Papandrea’s 12th year working with SOS Outreach in multiple states.

“We rely on coordinators at the schools to help recruit kids that they think would most benefit from the program,” said Papandrea, vice president of youth programs. “SOS Outreach has been in Tahoe for about 12 years, but it’s really taken off in the last five.”

According to SOS Outreach, the organization is “a national youth development nonprofit that utilizes adventure sports to engage at-risk and underserved students in long-term mentorship relationships. The SOS curriculum encourages responsibility, self-confidence, service, and leadership skills by instilling the SOS core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion, and humility. SOS works with local school districts and youth agencies to identify the students who will benefit most from the structure and consistency of the curriculum. The program encourages students to set and achieve goals while increasing their ability to combat the risk factors they face.”

The local branch of SOS is serving more than 600 students ages 8-18 this winter season. It teaches children to ski or snowboard at six Tahoe ski destinations — Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar California, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, Diamond Peak and Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area.

The on-mountain learn-to-ride program kicked off Dec. 6. A second session will begin in February, and spots are still open. A University Program, which focuses on mentoring kids who already know how to ski and snowboard, starts Jan. 9. It already has more than 100 participants registered.

“The session that currently started is full, with 75 kids learning to ride,” Papandrea said. “It’s the largest class ever in Tahoe.”

Emily Abernathy of South Lake Tahoe has worked as a mentor with SOS Outreach for the last six winters. She’s currently working with a group of three girls, aged 9-10. She previously mentored a group of boys, aged 16-18.

“I’ve always been in the Heavenly program,” Abernathy said. “Being a mentor means being there for a child that’s in need, whether it’s a need for education, social or financial reasons. It makes me feel more connected to our community.”

To get involved, email Papandrea at

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