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Making it in Big Sky: Rotary Club of Big Sky

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Ryan Wilson and his wife fell in love with the Big Sky area as soon as they moved here and have since worked to give back to the community. PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN WILSON


Making it in Big Sky: Rotary Club of Big Sky

By Mira Brody

BIG SKY – When Ryan Wilson and his wife Erica Perlman moved to Big Sky, they knew they wanted to give back to their community and the Rotary Club of Big Sky seemed like the perfect chance to do so. The club, which has been in the local community since 2004, voted Wilson in as president last year and since then he has been working to expand its reach.

Whether you’re driving the canyon and have seen the two bright blue emergency call boxes available to those in need, or watching your kids play on the new playground structures at Ophir School, the Rotary Club of Big Sky has touched the lives of every Big Sky resident. We spoke with Wilson about the club’s efforts and how to get involved. One of his favorite rotary events? Wearing a Santa Claus hat and delivering presents to excited kids for the annual Giving Tree.

This series is part of a paid partnership with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. The following answers have been edited for brevity.

Explore Big Sky: I’d like to start with a little background information on you, when and what brought you to Big Sky? 

Ryan Wilson: After graduating from Purdue University, I moved to Boston and started working with Suffolk Construction, where I still work as a Senior Project Manager. I really enjoyed living in Boston and vacationing to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the vast wildernesses of Maine on the weekends. My wife, Erica Perlman, grew up going to Montana every summer with her family. We visited several times, falling in love with the rivers, mountains and wildlife of the area. So, when Suffolk said they were looking for people to move to Montana to build the Montage, we jumped at the chance to relocate permanently. 

EBS: Tell me about the history of the Rotary Club of Big Sky when did it start? How/when did you become involved?

R.W.: Rotary has been around for over 100 years with 1.4 million members and 33,000 clubs worldwide so it’s not surprising to see a club in Big Sky. The club was founded in 2004 by community leaders like Barb Maves and Kirk Dige, who wanted to bring their past Rotary experiences to Big Sky. When my wife and I first moved to Big Sky we wanted to become involved with the community—giving back and getting to know people. We were quickly impressed by the club’s amazing work in the community and welcoming atmosphere. I found myself volunteering for many community service projects, including building the bridge at Kircher Park, staining at the community park dugouts and cooking for Eagle Mount campers. My passion for the club grew, as did my role in its leadership. I was honored to be voted in as Rotary president last year and have worked hard to expand our club’s reach in the community. 

EBS: How has it grown or changed over the years, particularly to accommodate the area’s growth?

R.W.: Our rotary club is constantly changing to accommodate the different challenges facing our community. When we saw that it was difficult for some families in to deal with the overwhelming costs of the holidays, we started the Big Sky Giving Tree. When accidents in the canyon increased due to the traffic, we installed emergency call boxes. Last year we were notified that West Yellowstone public schools had not had a formal school vision screening in over 12 years, so we sent an optometrist and several rotary members to do a full day of screening. When a few Ophir teachers and counselors brought it to our attention that they needed more playground equipment and special ed tools in the classroom, we purchased what was needed to make sure that our local kids were starting school on the right foot. Our club not only initiates its own projects, but also works with other community organizations such as Gallatin River Taskforce, Habitat for Humanity and Big Sky SNO, to help them on their missions. Our community is a rapidly changing place and our Rotary Club prides itself on seeking out issues in the community and doing what we can to help address those issues.

“Our community is a rapidly changing place and our Rotary Club prides itself on seeking out issues in the community and doing what we can to help address those issues.”

– Ryan Wilson, President, Rotary Club of Big Sky

EBS: How big is your team?

R.W.: We currently have 26 active members who each play a key role in the club, as committee chairs or spearheading recurring projects. We welcome all levels of participation depending on member’s individual interest and schedules. Most of our members live in Big Sky year-round but we also have members that live here part-time and stay active with our virtual meetings.

EBS: What is the best part about working with the people in the Rotary Club? Is there a specific memory and event that stands out to you?

R.W.: One of the major reasons I love our club is how diverse we are. We have many impressive members with varying backgrounds, passions, and expertise. The thing that unites all of us is that we want to be active members of our community and do what we can to make Big Sky a better place. One of my favorite events is wearing a Santa Claus hat and delivering presents to excited kids for our annual Giving Tree.

EBS: How can the community get involved in Rotary Club activities or support your efforts?

R.W.: A great way to get involved with the Rotary Club is to come to one of our meetings and learn more about what we are doing.  We meet the first and third Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. in the Town Center conference room (above The Rocks). We welcome all levels of participation depending on your interests and availability. If membership isn’t what you are looking for, our annual Gold Auction is a great way to show your support.  

EBS: What is the best business advice you have ever received?

R.W.: Be humble. Admit that you are not the best at everything and strive to learn from people who are better than you at something.

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