Design For A Difference Hits A New High

“Design For A Difference came to us at just the right time to help us reach new heights and maximize the impact we have in the communities we operate.” –Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director, SOS Outreach

Vail, Colorado-


Every winter, the town of Vail celebrates ski season as one of highest, largest, and most breathtaking mountain vacation destinations in the country. The slopes are steep and the living luxe. But that’s not what the buzz was all about in the subarctic air this past March.

Just outside the resort area, SOS Outreach (Snowboard Outreach Society) is celebrating the completion of their Design For A Difference makeover, and they are surprised by the results. What they thought was going to be a few upgrades in flooring and décor, has revealed a new appreciation for design and the power it has to impact the future success of their organization.

Giving Is Personal

SOSSelect Surfaces, owned by Rob and Deb Davis, and their partner Becky Maddux, spearheaded the Design For A Difference makeover at SOS in an effort to bring social awareness to the charity and its very important services.

“Our culture draws so much strength and joy from the outdoors, and partnering with SOS was a perfect way to play on our specialty of design while sharing our passion for a great cause,” says Deb.

Giving back for this trio comes as naturally as their outdoorsy mountain lifestyle. Over the years, they have made charitable work a cornerstone of their business. If they see a need, be it near or far, they are always ready to donate materials or take action. Their work can be seen as near as playful carpet, lining the floor of the summer Book Mobile school bus, and as far North as the new floors in the humble homes of an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. So, the idea of taking on a full-fledged project made complete sense.

“That’s one of the things we like about Design For A Difference. The movement aligns with what we’ve been doing all along,” explains Rob. “But I guess what gets me, is that giving has always been very personal, and not something I felt comfortable talking about openly. With DFAD, we have a voice and a platform to show our community that by helping us, we can help more.”

The Community At-Large

SOS is located in “WECMRD,” which stands for Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District. In layman’s terms, it is a stand-alone building within the campus of an indoor fieldhouse and recreation facility.

The non-profit was started in 1993 as an attempt to improve the negative societal perception of the snowboard culture exiting in the 1980’s and early 90’s. By organizing a “Learn to Ride” curriculum, the goal was to provide gear and instruction for at-risk or low-income youth and teens. It was an immediate success.

Within a few short years, core values of courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion, and humility were added to their teachings. Their program now includes four levels of progression that require increased commitment each year. This encourages youth to develop over time into healthy, confident, active members of the community.

And it should come as no surprise, that the success of the winter programs deemed it necessary to offer a full line of adventure sports in the Vail area and beyond. Youth can now enjoy summer adventures like rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, and stand-up paddle boarding. In 2016, SOS celebrated their reach of 50,000 youth in these programs since it was founded, and fifteen satellite locations within 9 states. And it’s all happening within the humble office here in WECMRD.

Gillian Lane, the Winter Programs Director, explains that both the national and local teams share the office, and how an established look would welcome new families to the program, many who are Spanish speaking only. In fact, part of her draw to SOS was the appreciation they had for her fluency in Spanish, and ability to connect with the youth.

“A majority of our kids come from low income households and English is their second language. This can lead to having trouble in school or difficulty making friends. It is our hope that they will find an inclusive rather than exclusive team of support when walking into SOS.”


A Trailblazer

Travis Tafoya, a former SOS student and now program director is one such example.

“SOS took my brothers and I into their program when I was in the fifth grade. As kids growing up in a community of avid skiers, this was huge for us. We felt blessed to be able to get out on the slopes like everyone else.”

The brothers thrived in the program and completed every stage of the curriculum.  By the time they reached high school Travis and his twin were offered full scholarships to enter Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy. This was a dream come true.

Skiiing“SOS was really the backbone of access to opportunity for me in life. My continued participation landed me a title with the Youth Leadership Council through Eagle River Youth Coalition. It was an honor to encourage others by sharing my experience on a higher platform,” Travis says.

Travis went on to the University of Colorado where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in human services and counseling. Upon graduation, he relocated to Chicago as the Coordinator of Chapter Development at Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and satellite director of SOS Outreach Chicago.

“It’s awesome. Now I’m the one taking kids out for the day, most of whom have never even been on skis much less a snowboard. It’s a new experience for them, and like me, they are thankful to have access to something like this. Bringing SOS here has given me peace of mind that I can give back to my community and continue my personal development. And that makes me feel right at home.”


Understanding SOS

When it came time for executing a plan, the makeover seemed like a pretty clear-cut plan to cover the concrete floor with luxury vinyl tile and change the aesthetics. But what they got when the design team came in was so much more. Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director explains:

“I didn’t appreciate the design process until we were going through it. The first day, the team came in and took one look at how we were working and began asking us questions we’d never thought of. They wanted to know why we were set up the way we were. They wanted to know who was responsible for what, and how our day-to-day operations were functioning. As it turns out, we weren’t working at full capacity.”

Rob, Deb, and Becky gathered their talented crew of designers, vendors, and local contractors to work their magic. Local designer Rebecca Hollister, of RoundHouse LLC, reworked the floor plan to create a much-needed conference room, provide a reception area, and set up workstations to separate the teams.

New floors were installed throughout the entire building, thanks to Baroque. The kitchen received a complete facelift from Vail Cabinets and Colorado Slab and Tile. White Horse Solutions, a local moving company took a day to rearrange the space. And with signage and some creative props (a real chairlift), the goal of a corporate look was accomplished.

Now, when a new family walks in, they are greeted with a giant SOS logo that lets them know that they are in the right place. The teams are working is designated spaces and have established who is responsible to greet the public without disrupting teamwork. The office is organized, decluttered, and fully functional at a much higher level than they could have possibly imagined.


Elevated Design

“It was incredible!” reports Seth. “This makeover not only looks amazing, but it has completely transformed HOW we operate as an organization. I didn’t really understand how much design could impact a space beyond décor.”

He describes how they now have a more holistic approach to their work. “We are no longer seven people sitting in the same space, but we are the national and local teams, coexisting in a focused, functional way.” Seth goes on to share the monumental impact their new design will have on the entire organization as they move forward.

SOS After“I guess you could say that we’ve kind of grown-up because of this makeover. Before this, we had the space, but we had grown so fast over the years and had no idea that we could benefit from a better design. Because of this makeover, we were able to regroup internally, and are now empowered to take on new growth at a national level.

When I bring in a potential partner, this space has that corporate look. Our teams are working more efficiently. And everyone is feeling more empowered to continue developing our programs. Design For A Difference came to us at just the right time to help us reach new heights and maximize the impact we have in the communities we operate.”

Rob, Deb, and Becky, we think you and your team have just mastered the double black diamond in Design For A Difference success. Vail may sit at the height of luxe mountain living, but the boundaries of SOS Outreach have no limits, thanks to your love for your community and desire to give back.


And The Award Goes To…

As this project wraps up, Select Surfaces continues to receive praise for their relentless contributions to Vail and the surrounding areas. This is why it comes as no surprise that the showroom was just named 2018 Small Business of the Year by Vail Valley Partnerships. From all of us at the International Design Guild, congratulations on this prestigious honor. Now let’s hit the slopes!