Early on the morning of a recent Special Olympics ski competition in Colorado, one of the coaches from the team in Grand Junction received a text from his oldest athlete who suffers from severe anxiety. This athlete has been on the team for several years, practicing with 31 other skiers and snowboarders and more than 20 volunteer coaches on the largest team in the state, sponsored by Colorado Discover Ability.
On that early morning, the athlete texted, “I got my rocket boots on, and my skies are ready. All I need is someone to light my rockets!”
This athlete -- and his newly gained confidence -- is just one success story from Colorado Discover Ability, a program in Mesa County that is on a mission to increase the independence, self-confidence, and self-worth of people with disabilities through outdoor recreation. Many athletes like this skier would not otherwise be able to participate were it not for a dedicated group of women giving love back to their local community in the form of an annual grant program.
“With the help of the Junior Service League, and their support through grants over the years, we have been able to expand the number of young adults, teens, and children involved in adaptive outdoor sports and recreational experiences,” said Sherry Schreiner, a board member with Colorado Discover Ability.
Junior Service League (JSL) is a nonprofit service organization in Grand Junction that was founded in 1983. It is a group of involved women who are committed to working together to improve the community through effective volunteerism and fundraising. JSL promotes education and contributes to the betterment of the community by supporting and promoting health care issues, human services development, women and children’s issues, and arts and recreation.
The lives touched by Junior Service League of Grand Junction are many, and they go fast past the ski slopes.
Over the years, JSL has awarded more than $1,100,000 in grants and provided more than 750,000 hours of community service to help nonprofit organizations in the Grand Valley. In December 2023 alone, the service organization awarded a total of $30,000 in grants to 11 Mesa County nonprofits.
Among those 2023 grant recipients, was Riverside Education Centers (REC), which provides Mesa County students with high-quality academic and extracurricular experiences during out-of-school time to foster individual growth and to create community within a safe, diverse, equitable, inclusive environment.
According to Kayla Pool of REC, one story about a 4th-grade student who hated reading at the start of the year reflects the transformation that can happen because of REC's after-school programming.
“She’d shut down on reading days because it was such a struggle for her,” said the program manager at REC.
The program manager and tutors worked closely with her to find books that she’d enjoy at her reading level, they shared tricks to make reading easier, and helped her slow down and sound out her words. Now, the same girl wants to spend all her time reading and asks every day for extra time with her book.
“It's been amazing to see how different she is from August to now!”
While the JSL has evolved over the years, the group has stayed steadfast in its efforts to help the community through volunteerism and fundraising to provide grants for the area. At its core, JSL’s goal is to give love back to the community through nonprofits like REC and Colorado Discover Ability. But they cannot do this work alone.
JSL raises funds for grants through community events, such as the group's largest event, Viva El Vino. The popular fundraiser will be held April 27, at the Wine Country Inn in Palisade, featuring wine tastings, beer garden, live music from Stray Grass, a silent auction, and more. Tickets are on sale now, and JSL invites the community to attend and help spread love back to local nonprofits.
Junior Service League of Grand Junction raises funds for its nonprofit grants through community events, such as the group’s largest event, Viva El Vino. The popular fundraiser will be held April 27, at the Wine Country Inn in Palisade, starting at 6 p.m. The event will feature wine tastings from local and national wineries, a beer garden, live music from Stray Grass, a silent auction, and more. Tickets are on sale now. Visit JSLGJ.com for details.
Over the years, JSL has awarded more than $1,100,000 in grants and provided more than 750,000 hours of community service to help nonprofit organizations in the Grand Valley.