By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor
BIG SKY – Dakota Perry is headed to the California coast and Las Vegas this summer, courtesy of the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation’s Big Bald Dave Adventure Scholarship.
Age 14 and a resident of Big Sky, Perry has been awarded $5,000 for a series of three summer camps focused on basketball and surfing. He will go first to Snow Valley Basketball Camp in Santa Barbara, Calif., then to San Diego for a weeklong surf camp, and finally to Las Vegas for Impact Basketball training camp.
Perry is a point guard on the Bozeman-based traveling basketball team Rise and Attack.
During the summer, Perry works as a landscaper for his parents’ private estate management company Powder Stash to make up for the extra expenses not covered by the scholarship. He also shares a booth with his family at the Big Sky Farmers Market, selling jewelry from local artisans and his own handmade walking sticks.
“This is a great opportunity,” Perry said. “It definitely changed my life forever. I can now learn lots of skills and meet new people and make lots of connections.”
The scholarship will allow Perry to travel to new places, gain independence and work on skills that further his goals, according to YCCF Executive Director Casey Schwartz. “The reason the board decided on a $5,000 gift [instead of multiple smaller grants] is that we wanted to make a huge impact on these kids,” Schwartz said.
Four years ago the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation established the scholarship to honor the memory David Mueller, nicknamed Big Bald Dave. A passionate adventurer and skilled outdoorsman, Mueller worked in the ski operations department at the Yellowstone Club for three years.
“He loved to be outdoors, [and] he really had this smile that would light up and his voice would quicken and become louder when he started telling you about his day on the river or the hill,” recalls Jeremy Harder, a teacher at Ophir School and a friend of Mueller’s.
“As we crossed paths he would always be interested in what outdoor stuff we were doing in fourth grade,” Harder added. “He really appreciated what I did and was always genuinely enthused about my stories [from school].”
In past years the scholarship was available to younger Big Sky students, but this year accepted kids in grades seven through 11.
Past recipients have participated in a NOLS course, a salmon fishing trip in British Columbia, and Spanish immersion exploration in Peru.
“We wanted to include high school-age kids, to [give them] a chance to expose [themselves] to different stuff before applying to colleges,” said Whitney Littman, who helped coordinate the scholarship.
YCCF hung fliers, went to the school to meet with students, contacted parents and ran an ad in a local newspaper, and three kids applied to the scholarship. Schwartz and Littman would like to see more applications next year.
The process involves filling out the application, getting letters of support, and doing an in-person interview, which Schwartz said can be daunting for some kids.
Perry, for his part, had a few words of advice for other applicants. “The interview was pretty hard, because I’m kind of shy sometimes,” he said. “Just be you [in the interview], and tell them about you.”