The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) Volunteer Program is at over 400 individuals strong these days and includes a wealth of knowledge and experience within its ranks. We have volunteers who have given their time and talent to BOEC for anywhere from one month to many years, however, there are only a select few that have given their time for 20 or more years, something we unofficially refer to as the “decades club.” And one such member of this exclusive “club” is Cleveland, OH native Jane Barber who has been part of the BOEC volunteer family for 20 years now.
Jane first experienced the allure of Breckenridge while visiting with family on a ski vacation in 1995. Apparently that trip made an impact as she went on to purchase a townhome in “Colorado’s Kingdom” just three years later before making the move to full-time residence in 2002. Almost immediately she happened upon the BOEC and its programs which seemed to be perfectly aligned with her educational and nursing backgrounds. As a teacher, registered nurse, and avid lover of the outdoors, the relationship between the two made perfect sense as she hopped on board with BOEC’s Adaptive Ski & Snowboard Program as a volunteer, a decision that is now two decades in the making.
Having a little fun with an adaptive student.
“As an avid skier and outdoors woman, it seemed to be the perfect fit for choosing my first organization to get involved with,” says the 65-year-old Barber. “Now I am 20 years in and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s where I can live my passions for both skiing and teaching.”
And living her passion she is as Barber has put in over 3,000 volunteer hours on the hill forming meaningful relationships at every turn and continues to do so year after year. In fact, it’s the relationships that keep her coming back year after year. Relationships with the BOEC staff and interns, yes, but it’s the material connections that she creates with her students that fuels the passion inside of her, especially at the larger multiple day events where she has the opportunity to build those bonds while having the added luxury of extra time to work with a client to see their progression. One of her favorite memories during her time with the BOEC illustrates just that.
Libby poses with Ripperoo.
“I have lots of favorite memories, but one particularly meaningful one is of a long-term relationship I had with a student,” remembers Jane. “When Libby started taking adaptive lessons with me she was a little girl who came up with the Clear Creek Special Olympics group. One year we even went together to Eldora to compete in the Special Olympics. When she was a teen I had lost track of her, but all of a sudden she showed up, this time part of the special education program at Summit Schools. She and her mother had moved to Summit County so I got to work with her again as a teenager.”
Another one of Jane’s favorite memories demonstrates just how passionate she really is about volunteering. As an on-and-off yoga practitioner for over 20 years, one day she had a bright idea.
BOEC staff participates in an early morning yoga class.
“While working one of BOEC’s Heroic Military Program events I was feeling tight and in need of stretching,” she recalls. “I literally had an epiphany ‘if I was tight, imagine how tight our participants must be.’ It was then and there that I decided to become trained as a yoga instructor so that I could bring it to the adaptive sports community.”
And she not only provides adaptive yoga sessions for her students, but comes into the ski office early mornings and leads sessions for the BOEC staff, leads sessions for our summer Wilderness Program groups, and even went the extra mile to offer virtual adaptive yoga classes during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
“Again, it’s a way for me to build relationships with the participants as well as with the staff and interns,” she says when asked about her motivation.
Jane (left) with a Ski Spectacular participant and daughter-in-law Jackie Foote.
Claire DiCola, BOEC’s Associate Program Director adds, “Jane’s yoga classes were a weekly highlight providing an opportunity for community, relaxation, and lightheartedness during a challenging time of isolation.”
Jane’s philanthropy doesn’t stop on the ski slope or yoga classroom, however, as this giving and kind individual has been an extremely generous BOEC donor for over 17 years as well. She comes from a very philanthropic family that focuses mainly on education as a place to donate.
“My father comes from a family of 13 and while his dad had only an eighth grade education, he made sure that all of his children went to college,” says Barber. “My grandfather’s motto was ‘Education is the only gift you can give that will last.’ That has carried on to the succeeding generations and BOEC is a great educational institution to give to.”
And not only does Jane and her family invest in education, but they focus on people rather than the bricks and mortar. For it’s the people who truly make an educational organization such as the BOEC great.
“Many years ago, as I was enjoying a clinic that the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) was putting on, I noticed that the staff attending the same clinic were stressed about how to pay for it,” she recalls. “I didn’t want money to be a barrier to their learning so I started donating to that cause as well.”
This is philanthropy in its truest form, but Jane doesn’t just go through the motions. In fact, she is dedicated to doing and being the best she can be for the BOEC and its participants.
“About 10 years ago the BOEC started putting its interns through the Alpine Level 1 training and examination process of the PSIA,” she says. “I decided to join that trajectory. I find that being trained and certified to teach skiing (Alpine Level 2, Adaptive Level 1, cognitive and visual impairment, and Children’s Specialist 1) greatly enhances my experience. Being able to teach at a professional level brings a higher quality product to the client. I highly recommend volunteers to consider going through the certification process.”
These days Barber splits her time between Cape Cod, MA and Breckenridge, CO but the passion to volunteer doesn’t just stay in Breck. She has used the much larger adaptive network that BOEC is a part of to keep that volunteer spirit alive when back East for the summer as she teaches yoga for the McGraw Adaptive Sports Center which is part of the Spaulding Adaptive Sports Network.
The spring melt at Keystone.