Photo courtesy of SheJumps
“What great thing would you dare to accomplish if success was the only outcome?” Claire Smallwood, executive director of the non-profit organization SheJumps, repeats this phrase on the daily. Smallwood has taken the mantra to heart, and for the past five years has used the statement as a backbone for the female-driven organization that aims to increase women participation in outdoor activities. To flatly say SheJumps just “increases female participation in the outdoors” is an understatement. Since its conception in 2007, SheJumps has been helping women of all ages, social backgrounds, and ethnicities embrace their dreams, discover their hidden talents, and become empowered in their community through outdoor recreation and sports.
Five seasons ago, on a winter day in Jackson Hole, Wyo., pro-skier and action sports filmmaker/photographer Lynsey Dyer and friend Vanessa Pierce (Communications Director, RAMP Sports) decided that there needed to be a media platform for the many untold stories of female athletes. “There are so many hometown, unsung heroes,” says Smallwood. “No one knows about these women who every day try to challenge themselves athletically to accomplish great tasks.” Dyer, who is an icon in the freeski world and has been decorated with the National Freeski Tour Champion Title, has had loose-talk throughout her career with many companies and people asking her about getting involved and giving back to the underprivileged. Without knowing how to go about it, Dyer let the issue rest until she and Pierce were able to get on the same page about women’s participation in the action sports culture. Together, they decided that the best method to tell these stories would be to start a blog. Smallwood, who was in Jackson Hole skiing at the time, met up with the girls, heard about the project and suggested they create a non-profit. From there, the three ladies have pulled together their resources and skills to organically grow the organization into a force for good for all women interested in trying something new, overcoming fears, and testing their limits and strengths.
SheJumps has a three-part mission: Jump In, Jump Up and Jump Out. Jumping In is for the “never-evers”—the women who might never get the chance to experience outdoor activities due to social/economic background or just plain intimidation due to cultural or societal norms. Jump Up is for the women who need a supportive community to try new things. Jump Out is for the women who can give back by helping others progress in any way through outdoor recreation.
The Girafficorn is the SheJumps unwavering symbol of a giraffe with a unicorn’s horn. Invented by Dyer herself, the logo represents the magic harnessed when you have your head in the clouds, but keep your feet on the ground to create un-bounding success. When Smallwood, Dyer and Pierce were in the early stages of creating SheJumps, they would often play their “Manifest Game”—a game where you imagine your ideal day without any limitations. This game turned into a sideshow at organized SheJumps events where they would invite participants to share their “days of success” in turn for SheJumps swag. Helping women overcome and find success is their focus, and the girls don’t limit their talents and resources for anyone. Another motto embraced by the non-profit is, “If she can do it, then so can … anyone.”
If you attend a SheJumps event, you’ll notice how everyone involved is extremely friendly and willing to help you progress your skill. The commraderie between the participants, coaches and leaders is a defining characteristic. “When growing up skiing, I was riding most of the time with all males. If another girl was around, it was a bit intimidating. You didn’t know how to respond, or if you needed to one-up each other to be cool,” says Smallwood. “SheJumps creates the opposite vibe. To me, women are naturally communal people and we like to take care of each other. At an event, you see that come out. Our organization has always had hype and appeal, and the women involved have always been extremely supportive and encouraging.”
The latest SheJumps event was held at the Utah Olympic Legacy Park in Park City, where anyone interested could fly off the water ramps on snow skis into a “catch” pool of bubbling water. Professional ski coaches were available to help the participants learn new tricks and get used to the trajectory of a substantial launch on skis. Also included in the event was a chance to use the trampolines to try flips and spins before using the jump-if any of the skiers wanted to go big. For an entire day, novice to advanced attendees took advantage of sport training that is exclusively given to professional and Olympic athletes. That is what SheJumps is so good at doing—connecting interested people by learning new things or advancing their skills in the outdoors, and having fun while doing it.
Though SheJumps has grown to the point where they’ve separated the country into seven districts, with regional directors in each area organizing and hosting events, anybody can suggest a new sport of interest, get involved, and even host or teach. There is no red tape and no prejudices. They have even been asked to host events in Europe, which affirms to the non-profit leaders that the organization is headed in the right direction as a positive source for good. “We are creating a template,” says Smallwood. “A resourceful curriculum, basically, for women of all ages and backgrounds to get involved and be their own everyday hero. We want women around the world to know that being yourself and engaging in positive activities creates real beauty, confidence and empowerment.”
To get involved with SheJumps and for informaton on events, news, and programs, jump onto shejumps.org.