Foundation gives $90K to local organizations

By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – During the last two weeks of July, nearly 200 kids will set out for adventure in Big Sky. These youth will explore horseback riding, archery, canoeing and more, with overnight excursions and day trips offered based on the campers’ age.

The programming is offered through Camp Moonlight as two four-day sessions for kids between the ages of 5 and 17. The sessions, both of which are full, run July 23-26 and July 30 to Aug. 2, at various locations in Big Sky.

New this year, children in the 8-10 age group will spend a day orienteering off Jack Creek Road as preparation for the two-night camping trip offered to children between the ages of 11 and 13.

Heather Morris, the chairperson of the Moonlight Community Foundation that produces the camp, said she loves seeing the kids build relationships.

“My favorite part each year of camp is the opportunity to see these kids make new connections with nature, with each other, and with themselves,” she said.

“Nerves set in sometimes and these kids are so brave to show their fears, whether it’s being away from their parents, getting close to horses, inclement weather, hiking up a mountain, or getting into a canoe,” she added. “These kids really do a great job of encouraging and supporting each other and it’s such a treat to witness.”

According to Morris, the campers represent a mix of Big Sky locals and out-of-towners, and the Moonlight foundation works to provide scholarships so that local kids can attend.

“Many of us came to this area to ‘get lost’ in nature and explore the beauty around us, and I’m so grateful our donors want the same opportunities for the younger generation,” she said.

Camp Moonlight started in 2013 with an inaugural group of 30 campers. Since that time, the camp has grown steadily, mirroring Big Sky’s growth, as well as the growth of the Moonlight Community Foundation.

The foundation began in 2011, started by five members of the Moonlight Club. “We wanted to come together to do good things, not only for the Moonlight community, but for Big Sky,” Morris said.

In its first year, the foundation installed interpretive signs along the public Ulery’s Lake Loop Trail on Moonlight property. In subsequent years, they also installed signs at Hummocks and Uplands trails in Big Sky Town Center, and began offering spring and fall grants available to Big Sky area organizations.

This spring, the Moonlight Community Foundation awarded $90,000 to 14 organizations, including the Arts Council of Big Sky, Big Sky School District, Big Sky Community Organization and Big Sky Discovery Academy.

With a mission to foster and support education, youth development and conservation, the foundation board is excited to have awarded funds to Skyline to support the initiative to bring a zero emissions bus to Big Sky, Morris said.

“Donors have been very generous. I think they’re happy to give back to the Big Sky community that we all love and get so much from,” she said.

The Moonlight Community Foundation will begin another grant cycle this fall, with applications due on Nov. 15. To learn more, visit moonlightcommunityfoundation.org.

This is the final installment in a three-part series on Big Sky’s private club foundations. Visit explorebigsky.com/yellowstone-club-community-foundation-continues-to-grow-with-big-sky to read about the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, and explorebigsky.com/spanish-peaks-community-foundation-celebrates-july-fourth-with-fundraiser to read about the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation.