VERNON, N.J. (WCBS 880) — High up in the mountains of northern New Jersey there's a ski slope like no other – one that Peter Pan might enjoy.
“All of this is just for kids – no adults get to ski here. No public. Only for kids, it's a sacred place,” says Schone Malliet.
As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams learned in this week’s “Stories from Main Street: Difference Makers,” Malliet founded a special ski program as a way to help inner city youth.
“I grew up in a city in the Bronx,” he says. “I'm an asphalt kid.”
Malliet never went skiing as a child but excelled in many areas. He eventually entered the Marines and his navigator was the first person to take him on the slopes.
“Fell and fell and got up and fell, knocked a few people down, and I knew at that time I was never going to do it again,” Malliet said.
However, that wasn’t exactly the case. He kept skiing while he embarked on a successful career running tech companies. When he retired, he opened his non-profit at the old Hidden Valley Slope.
The program is called Winter4Kids and focuses on providing children with mentorship while changing their lives through winter activities.
“Our customers are youth serving agencies. Schools, like Avon School or Helen Morgan – that's local here – or our schools from Newark and Elizabeth and Patterson, the YMCAs in New Jersey and New York,” Malliet says.
Children come up to the program and learn a variety of skills and may even pick up a new hobby – free of cost to their parents.
“We provide all the equipment, healthy meals – not a fried food here – instruction, and mentoring,” Malliet notes.
They try to connect with children on a person level beyond just ski instruction.
“How do you deal with anger or what do you deal with, with frustration? Goal setting, etcetera,” he explains.
Roughly three thousand young people hit the slopes year every season that number is expected to multiply.
“We will grow to 10,000 kids annually by 2023, Malliet explains.
He says the program is life changing and can help children tackle obstacles in other areas of their lives.
“It opens up their eyes to other opportunities that they're able to see more, to believe more and to be able to pursue more I think that that's the one thing that changes lives is that their opportunity to experience new things and then the mastery of something they didn't know give them that confidence to take other steps ahead,” he says of the program. “I know because I'm a product of something like that.”
To learn more about the Winter4Kids program or to find out how to support to program, visit winter4kids.org.