Community generosity keeps Lee Vining students skiing


Ski P.E. program alive despite cost of moving to Mammoth Mountain

“I really thought we would sell enough lemonade to keep June open,” a third grader from Lee Vining Elementary School said to kindergarten teacher Anna Strathman.

But their plea fell on deaf ears, so they redirected the money to cover the increased cost of running the Ski P.E. program at Mammoth Mountain.

“We didn’t want to eliminate children from the program because they couldn’t afford it,” Strathman said, “We want to make it available to everyone.” Sixty-one of the school’s 84 students participate in Ski P.E.

On Thursday, the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation presented a check for $2,500 to Strathman for Lee Vining Elementary School’s Ski P.E. program.

Par for the course lately.

Between lemonade sales last summer, Strathman said, and donations from “Ernie’s, Fern Creek, Double Eagle, the June Lake Women’s Club, Lee Vining Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization, a special raffle held during Mark Twain Days, and individuals who hear about our need and simply write checks,” the community has been reaching out to these students.

Some of these donors have experienced significant losses due to the closure of June Mountain, Strathman said, but that didn’t squash their generosity.

Even other kids are reaching out: “The ski team kids raised over $2,000 and decided to give half of that to the Ski P.E. fund so that everyone could ski,” Strathman said.

When Strathman showed up with her students at Mammoth Mountain for the first Ski P.E. day of the year, she identified herself, and instead of taking her money, they told her: “It’s on us today.”

The Ski P.E. program at Lee Vining Elementary School runs for four weeks and costs roughly $35 a week for each of the 61 students.

About 40 percent of the students at Lee Vining Elementary School qualify for free or reduced lunches.

The school has lost 17 of its students since November, Strathman said.

“It’s difficult to say whether this is due to the closure of June or not,” she said. “However, we can say that many of our parents are just hanging on and getting through the year.”

With June Mountain open, the Ski P.E. program had 30 parent and teacher volunteers who taught the kids and helped out. And since June Mountain was on the school bus route, there was no increase in transportation costs.

But moving to Mammoth meant they lost their volunteer base and now have to pay $987 every week for instruction, in addition to the cost of transporting the students.

“Sometimes you wonder if anyone cares,” Strathman said, “when you come from a small town, a little bit north of Mammoth.”

“I feel that they do.”