Pebble Creek supports charities with Tuesday ski pass sales
POCATELLO -- Now a stay-at-home mom living in Idaho Falls, ChaAnn Rodriguez is still troubled by an observation from her high school days that students with disabilities were missing out on a senior class tradition.
Rodriguez, who graduated from Pocatello High School in 2014, regarded exchanging senior photographs and graduation announcements as a special part of the local student culture. But during her senior year, she assisted six students with special needs as a peer tutor, and only one of them had senior pictures taken and announcements made.
Rodriguez finally sees an opportunity to right a perceived wrong that’s been nagging at her for years, thanks to a new program offered by Inkom-based Pebble Creek Ski Area. The ski area recently started donating $5 of every lift ticket sold on Tuesdays to a chosen philanthropic cause of the week.
On Jan. 22, lift pass sales will help support Rodriguez in her efforts to provide senior photographs for about 20 seniors with disabilities from Pocatello, Century and Highland high schools. Rodriguez discovered a high percentage of students with special needs lack the financial wherewithal to hire a photographer. She explained many of their families also face extra expenses, such as speech therapy.
Other seniors with special needs told her they found the process of getting senior photographs taken to be physically and emotionally taxing.
Rodriguez, who operates her own business called CR Photography, has agreed to personally take the students’ photographs outside of their high schools after classes let out. Any revenue raised from Pebble Creek will help her defray associated personal expenses such as photo editing software and travel.
“These kids get so little of a normal high school experience, and one of the reasons I wanted to do this was to give them a little piece of their youth that they can appreciate and also connect with others on,” Rodriguez said.
Christian Colonel, special education teacher at Highland, estimates fewer than half of his school’s students with special needs get senior photographs. Colonel has found that income is an obstacle, as is a lack of confidence many students with special needs have in themselves.
“I’ve got a dozen kids who want to do it,” Colonel said. “I think it’s huge for a lot of kids in this demographic. ... If we can do it in a comfortable setting, I think they’re all for it.”
Next fall, Rodriguez hopes to expand her program to cover students with disabilities in Idaho Falls, and possibly to also give students hard copies of her photos, in addition to digital versions.
She comes from a family of skiers and snowboarders -- including her father, Mike Rodriguez, who works at Pebble Creek -- and she and friends and family have promoted the fundraiser heavily on social media.
“I’ve had a ton of my friends and family share it -- to go ski for an awesome cause,” she said.
In addition to donating a portion of lift ticket sales to charity, the ski area discounts tickets to $30 on Tuesdays, said Dana Kmetz, Pebble Creek’s marketing and guest service director. The normal cost of a lift ticket is $47.
Kmetz said Pebble Creek encourages the recipient organizations to recruit skiers for the Tuesday fundraisers, which boosts the donations they receive while helping Pebble stay busy on a typically slow day. The first Tuesday fundraiser, hosted Jan. 8, raised $150 for Idaho State University’s Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group. The second fundraiser, hosted Jan. 15, benefited Pocatello Free Clinic.
Kmetz said Pebble Creek still has open Tuesdays on its schedule and invites potential beneficiary organizations to inquire about participating.
“We’re going to be able to get more guests up here, who will be able to purchase discounted lift tickets at the same time,” Kmetz said. “We’re going to donate to good causes, and we’re keeping it all local.”
Kmetz said Pebble Creek has also donated $5,700 worth of lift tickets in support of local organizations.