Nonprofits funded at Sunlight Sports Community Night

Posted 5/14/24

With a large, well-fed crowd waiting for Wes Allen to take the microphone during the annual Sunlight Sports Community Night, representatives for five nonprofit organizations were positioned on the …

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Nonprofits funded at Sunlight Sports Community Night


With a large, well-fed crowd waiting for Wes Allen to take the microphone during the annual Sunlight Sports Community Night, representatives for five nonprofit organizations were positioned on the main sales floor in the midst of sharing their missions with those in attendance.

When co-owners Wes and his wife Melissa took over the popular outdoors retail store in 2010, they pledged to give 2% of their profits to local nonprofit organizations that facilitate outdoor activities for young people as part of their core mission. In the years since, they have contributed more than $600,000 to area organizations they’ve championed.

Featured at this year’s festivities were five nonprofit organizations making a positive impact in the community, Allen said. But this year was special as one of the nonprofits featured and competing for funding during the event was actually raising money for one of the other nonprofits on the floor.

“It’s something that we’ve never really had before,” Allen said.

The Shoshone Back Country Horsemen brought a fat check for Dano Youth Camps, thanks to a raffle for a special Wyoming barn wood table handmade by longtime member, Frank Fagan.

In 2015 the Fagans lost an old barn in a storm. But Fagan isn’t one to let resources go to waste so he has spent nearly a decade repurposing the wood, building several projects. For this particular project, he used well-weathered barn wood and horseshoes to make a coffee table for anyone who loves Western-themed art, furniture or equine sports. Members of the nonprofit then sold raffle tickets and 100% of the proceeds went to Dano Youth Camps.

For member of the Back Country Horsemen of America, donating funds, time and effort is in their DNA. In 2022, members around the country donated over 207,800 volunteer hours from 32 different states with a value of over $12 million. More than 14,775 horses and mules were used with volunteers traveling over 1.2 million miles to locations to do volunteer work.

The total volunteer hours donated over the past 28 years since the organization was founded was 6,950,429 with a dollar value of $192,494,393.

“The Shoshone Back Country Horsemen is one of the hardest working nonprofits in town,” Allen said. “Not only do they have programs to get kids on horseback, they teach them safety and get them out in nature. Anybody who’s been on one of the Forest Service trails anywhere in the Shoshone National Forest; the reason you’re not climbing over trees the whole time, is because of this organization.”

Cindy Geissler, treasurer for the Shoshone Back Country Horsemen, said the club “very much likes being able to help the kids as she presented the $2,500 check to Alex Aguirre, co-director of Dano Youth Camps.

“Our club is all about being in the backcountry, clearing trails and helping kids,” she said.

Dano Youth Camps experience is limited to 20 girls and 20 boys. Some of those chosen have previously been selected for the annual trips and were asked back to take leadership roles in the organization.

Alex Aguirre started as a camper when he was 13 years old. He loved the experience and stayed with it until becoming co-director of the camps, overseeing the boys camp.

“I worked my way up as a first year camper to an alumni leader, and then a counselor in training. Now I’ve been on staff for several years,” he said.

He said the eight-day wilderness camping experience can teach more than just outdoor skills.

“The participants learn a lot about themselves. You know, how to dig deeper physically — hiking with a 50- to 60-pound pack on their backs — and they break down barriers by meeting new friends,” he said.

When the camp is over, those involved often return to their communities ready to lend a helping hand when needed, he said.

“They come away as more capable people. Completing the trip is the biggest accomplishment of their lives. But then after that, they go back to the community ready to help,” Aguirre said. “This isn’t the first time [Back Country Horsemen] has given us a big chunk of money. They’ve been supportive over the years. We can’t thank them enough.”

The Danolope Dash is the organization’s largest fundraiser. This year’s Dash is scheduled for June 1 at the Park County Fairgrounds. Registration is now open for the Fun Run, 5K and 10K runs. The event starts at 8 a.m. There will also be planned activities, including the famous obstacle course for the kids. A brunch and prizes are included.

The next Shoshone Back Country meeting is May 16 at 6 p.m. at the Park County Weed and Pest offices at 1067 Road 13. A potluck dinner is scheduled followed by the meeting.

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