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Summer vacation packages support Haiti and bring awareness to Big Sky

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By Maria Wyllie Editorial Assistant

BIG SKY — Big Sky’s Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the family-focused travel blog, Trekaroo, to raffle off two Big Sky summer 2013 vacation packages in support of Passports with Purpose, the travel community’s largest annual fundraiser.

Passports with Purpose was founded in 2008 as a way to build community among travelers and give back to the places they visit. This year, the founders have partnered with, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing access to safe water and sanitation to people in the developing world.

From Nov. 28 – Dec. 11, 2012, thousands of donors bid in $10 increments on one or more of the 110 prizes hosted by more than 200 travel bloggers from around the globe. Surpassing its goal of $100,000, Passports with Purpose has raised $110,000 to help build five wells in Haiti.

Big Sky prizes include a weeklong authentic dude ranch vacation at Lone Mountain Ranch and a three-day Big Sky and Yellowstone adventure.

Liling Pang, co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo, initiated the Chamber’s participation in the fundraiser after she attended the COC’s FAM, or media familiarization tour, this past summer. The FAM helped consumers understand Big Sky’s close proximity to Yellowstone and introduced them to summer activities in the Big Sky area.

When Pang contacted Kitty Clemens, executive director of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, asking if she would support Passports with Purpose, Clemens sent an inquiry to various lodging partners. The Chamber received enough responses they decided to sponsor two prizes.

“Liling delivers a lot of return to the Big Sky area during the warm season,” Clemens said.

Having stayed at Lone Mountain Ranch in the past, Pang was able to blog about Montana and her experience on the ranch, thus promoting Big Sky to the travel community and other online visitors.

“What it does is big in that someone would be writing about us who has been here,” said PJ Wirchansky, Director of Marketing and Sales at LMR. “We are excited people can come and enjoy Lone Mountain Ranch and be a part of a community that offers so many wonderful experiences.”

LMR typically supports the school and nonprofits around Big Sky, but Passports with Purpose has given the ranch the opportunity to come together with other well-known Big Sky properties and be a part of something bigger.

“When different organizations can come together to help support Passports with Purpose, but also bring awareness of Montana to a better level, it just seems like a good thing to do,” said Wirchansky.

Second prize, which includes a number of Big Sky activities as well as a trip to Yellowstone, has been put together by a partnership between Buck’s T-4, Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin, and Yellowstone Luxury Tours.

“Liling wrote two Big Sky blogs, but her colleagues reposted, so it’s like a domino affect with all bloggers talking about how great it is to visit in the Big Sky area,” Clemens said.

Pang’s blog has 480,000 Twitter followers and reaches 1.5 million visitors monthly. With two packages, Big Sky received double the coverage.

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