"It turns out Tricia Byrnes and I are not very good at golf and probably ought to stick to snowboarding," admitted pro snowboarder Kelly Clark, whose third annual Kelly Clark Foundation Golf Tournament earlier this month at the Haystack Golf Club in Vermont raised enough money to fund four scholarships for young snowboarders looking to attend elite mountain academies. "Now comes the fun part: Giving all that money away."
In its first two years, the Kelly Clark Foundation gave out 21 scholarships to high school students at nine different mountain schools across the United States, including Mount Snow Academy in Vermont, the school Clark graduated from the year before she won Gold in Women's Halfpipe at the 2002 Winter Olympics. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the golf tournament go directly to the scholarship fund.
Clark, who is the subject of a new book about her Christian faith ("Reaching New Heights," Zonderkidz, Sept. 2012), established her foundation in 2010, the year she won Winter Olympic Bronze in Vancouver. She attributes much of her success to her early education and training. Clark is now the most decorated female athlete in her sport, with her two Olympic medals, nine Winter X Games medals (four of them gold) and back-to-back season titles from the World Snowboard Tour, Burton Global Open Series, U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix and Winter Dew Tour.
"I went to a mountain school to pursue my dream to be a professional, and got the support that I needed through scholarships and through my family pulling from my college fund to help pay for a high school education and to set me up with coaching and training to further my snowboarding," Clark said. "But I realized that route's just not available to most people, so I started the Kelly Clark Foundation to help make snowboarding and training at that higher level more accessible."
Recent Kelly Clark Foundation scholarship recipients include United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA) 2012 Snowboard Nationals competitor Sophie Warner, and Kiersten Edwards, an all-around rider who won first place in Boardercross, Slalom and Giant Slalom in the Menehune Girls (ages 10-11) division at the 2012 Snowboard Nationals, and took second place in both the Halfpipe and Slopestyle events.
Edwards also placed fourth in the 2012 Burton U.S. Open Girls Junior Jam in Stratton, Vt. Recipients of the foundation's scholarships have attended the Carrabasset Valley Academy in Maine, Steamboat Ski and Snowboard School in Colorado, Mount Snow Academy, Okemo Mountain School and Stratton Mountain School in Clark's home state of Vermont, among others.
Applications for this year's scholarships, available online at KellyClarkFoundation.org, are due July 30, and Clark said the scholarships are open to all snowboarders looking to pursue both athletics and academics at mountain schools.
In addition to the mountain school scholarships, Clark said she's looking to expand her foundation's reach to help up-and-coming riders pay for snowboard camps, and to further support scholarship alumni like Warner and Edwards.
"I'm at a point where I've been in the snowboarding industry for a long time and have been doing very well in contests, but also at a point where I can kind of look around and realize that it's not necessarily all about me," Clark said, of the values that prompted her to start her non-profit foundation in the first place. "I wanted to make sure that I leave behind more than just a string of really good contest results, and the foundation is an avenue to give back to the sport and make sure that the next generation of riders is more successful than I ever was."