In 1973, the Buddy Program started humbly with four adult mentor buddies matched with four little buddies. Forty years later, it has grown into five separate programs serving 1,000 youth across the Roaring Fork Valley.
Notable Aspenites including Pastor of the Aspen Chapel Gregg Anderson, former mayors Helen Klanderud and Mick Ireland, and Lenny “Boogie” Weinglass were instrumental in creating the Buddy Program we call our own.
Based on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, Anderson started what has become the Buddy Program, as an offshoot of his work with the Open Door counseling agency, mentoring children who were in need of a strong compass to promote their development into well-rounded adults.
It has grown over the years, expanding from a few volunteers to a more structured organization with a series of executive directors who have helped the Buddy Program grow since it was formally incorporated in 1989. The average duration of service for a Big Buddy paired with a child from 6-18 is 4.9 years, longer than any other similar program in the country.
The success of the Buddy Program in part has been due to its grassroots fundraising projects, such as the annual Thanksgiving Hickory House Dinner, Boogie’s Buddy Race — now in its 30th year — and the glamorous Buddy Bash, held Friday July 5 at the St. Regis Hotel.
Started in 2000, this will be the 14th gala which was previously held at Boogie’s Merry Go Round Ranch. He will be honored this year at the Bash for his 30 years of support of the Buddy Program.
When I spoke with Boogie by phone he told me he offered his home on McLain Flats for the first Bash when he started on the board in 1998.
“It became the toughest ticket to get in town,” Boogie told me, as it sold out every year for the next twelve years, starting in 2000. Having been lucky enough to attend a few of these soirees, it was indeed the party of the year, under the stars in billowing white tents on his spectacular grounds, with food from our top restaurants and the best rhythm and blues bands from Denver, including a company of dancers that got everyone on the floor for hours.
When asked what his greatest contribution was and the reason he got involved in the Buddy Program, Boogie shared, “I wanted to be a good role model for kids. I grew up as a poor kid myself, and I just wanted to give other kids a better childhood.”
Though not as active as he once was in all the events and programs, he continues to be involved on a philanthropic level. He left me with his favorite saying, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” It will certainly be nice to thank him publicly at this year’s culminating event of the year, his coveted Boogie’s Buddy Bash.
The Buddy Program now boasts five separate components including, of course, the 250 adults and youth in the weekly mentoring meetings, peer-to-peer tutoring program with 200 pairs of students, experiential education programs with ACES and Mountain Rescue, including a Youth Camp in Moab, Utah and Dream Day Camp, as well as Lemonade Day which just started in 2011.
In 2010 the Buddy Program established an alliance with their primary corporate sponsor, Fendi. A few days before the Bash, Fendi invites guests who will be attending the Bash to an amazing in-store shopping spree, introducing their couture fall collections for purchase, perhaps for that perfect outfit to wear to the St. Regis gala. Fendi generously donates financial support and a unique auction item each year, as well as 20 percent off their Aspen sales during the month of July and the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Their partnership has enabled the Buddy Program to support hundreds of young people.
In January, 2012, Catherine Ann Provine announced that she was leaving the Buddy Program in her leadership role as executive director, after seven years to join Pathfinders, another Aspen non-profit.
The new director is David Hougy, who moved here to take over in March, 2012. He brings his business acumen and experience in strategic planning with fifteen years as a management consultant including eight years at The Boston Consulting Group, where he held the position of partner and director. David holds an MBA in finance and strategy from the University of Chicago and both a B.S. and Master of Engineering in Applied Physics from Cornell University.
Photos from this year’s Buddy Bash will be in next week’s Time Out, with extended coverage on Giovanna’s blog: fashionistainaspen.com