University School students bring skiing to kids across Milwaukee

For some people, winters in Wisconsin can only mean one thing.

That's hitting the slopes.

"I started skiing when I was really little, and I've just fallen in love with it," said Jackson Darr.

Jackson and younger sister Mia have been skiing almost their entire lives.

"My parents kind of introduced me to skiing," said Mia. "They've loved it. They love traveling and skiing. And so they thought, our kids are going to want to do something in the winters to have fun. Why not try skiing? And I started it and I loved it."

Once the pandemic hit, the siblings had some extra time on their hands, so they came up with an idea.

Bring the sport they love to kids who might never get the chance to speed down a hill.

"Winters in Wisconsin can be really cold and my brother and I've been skiing since a really young age, so we created this during the pandemic because we wanted everyone to be able to benefit and come out of the pandemic with something to look forward to."

What they created was the non-profit Positive Altitudes, a four-week program at Sunburst Ski Hill in Kewaskum.

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"I love the sport of skiing, and I've been given the opportunity to start skiing when I was really little," said Jackson. "And I just wanted to give the opportunity to kids who might not have the resources to do so."

After securing donors, the University School students made some calls and connected with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, the COA Youth and Family Centers, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

"We sent out letters to our community to get the funding for this program, and we were really supported," Mia said. "Overall, we got a generous amount of donations to help get this program going."

Dozens of kids from those clubs signed up for the free program.

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Snow pants, jackets, gloves, boots and skis, all donated.

From there, they were off to the races. Or at least at first they needed to learn how.

"My mom just started me up, and she just told me they were going ski," said 8-year-old Zoe Phoenix. "I did not believe her, but I just asked my brother, and he said, yeah. I was like nervous, but I got better and better."

"I wouldn't say I was the best," said 11-year-old Nicholas Qie. "I was alright other than the falling."

Born in Puerto Rico, Luis Duperoys never put on a pair of skis.

The Marquette University High School student has always been about baseball.

While he loves being on the diamond, this gives him a different kind of joy.

"Being here, it's just like another world, I guess," said Duperoys. "It's different from a school. All this stress is gone. And just being able to come here and just like have fun. All around it's just amazing. If baseball doesn't work, I think this is a good thing for me."

Whether they continue with the program or ski in the future, for the Darrs, it's all about staying in the moment and seeing the kids have fun.

"Not everyone gets to ski and seeing them doing something that they love and that they're really passionate for is really cool," said Mia.

"The kids really are happy right when they walk in the door," Jackson said. "They're so excited to get out on the hill as fast as possible, and especially for me, just seeing them improve from the first day. Most of these kids have never skied in their lives before, so it's amazing to see how far they've come."


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