From snowboarding to kayaking, Hero USA gives disadvantaged youth an opportunity to try designer sports that might normally be out of their reach.
GETDOT’S February event will raise money to benefit Hero USA. The non-profit organization was started by Michael Bain and Domenic Buccilla in 2009.
“We teach paddle sports in the summer and snow sports in the winter to under-resourced or disadvantaged youth in Columbus,” said Bain.
He said Hero USA is certified to teach canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle board, and adaptive paddling. Bain said the adaptive paddling allows instructors to reach out and teach young people with disabilities.
Youth organizations that benefit from Hero USA include Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Gladden Community House.
“There are several clubs we reach out to,” Bain said. “We invite kids to come partake in activities and events or classes.
Rod Wilson is a Big Brother in the Big Brother Big Sister program. Bain said Wilson has been actively involved with Hero USA and brings his Little Brother but also his own children. He also helps with events.
“I join their activities,” Wilson said. “I have a Little Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters,” he said. “I take his big brother who is in high school.”
Wilson said his Little Brother enjoys skiing and water activities like kayaking and wake boarding.
Through Hero USA Wilson learned how to wake board.
“I did that and enjoyed it,” he said.
Wilson has been a Big Brother in the Big Brother Big Sister program for five years and understands the importance of young men having a role model in their life which is why he volunteered as a Big Brother.
“I have a son and daughter of my own and know the importance of having a role model,” Wilson said.
The target age range for Hero USA is 4 to 18. However, there is an opportunity for young adults to participate in the program as well. Hero USA has been around so long that some of the kids who started off participating in the activities now come back and serve as chaperones or club leaders, Bain said.
“We reach out to them so we remain a positive influence in their lives,” he said. “We invite them to come back and help kids who were their age when they started.”
Bain said he and Buccilla wanted to start a non-profit business in 2009 around activities they like to do.
They came up with a list of outdoor activities they liked. They knew they wanted to focus on education and chose youth who normally don’t get to participate in “designer sports,” like skiing and kayaking because they are very expensive.
“They take a long time to master and you really have to want to learn,” Bain said. “We wanted to train people the right way.”
Funding comes primarily from a grant Hero USA receives from the State of Ohio for boating safety education. During the summer Hero USA hosts classes and other public paddle events that raise money which also aids sustainability.
“It’s not a lot of money, but it helps,” Bain said.
The rest of the funding comes from fundraisers like the February 9 fundraiser at DeNovo’s Bistro & Bar, 150 South High Street, 5 p.m.
“We are very appreciative of GETDOT’s interest in having us be the February event every year,” Bain said. “It really helps us out, especially in the season we are not as busy and there are not as many opportunities to raise as much money.”
Each year 135 young people participate in winter activities like snowboarding and 150 participate in summer activities like paddle boarding.
Bain said snowboarding is his favorite activity Hero USA offers.
“I just really love being on the board… on the mountain, even at Mad River,” Bain said. “The thrill of free riding, there’s nothing quite like it.”