Pro skier gives back to youth

Maged Sultan, 23, sighed as he looked up at the rock wall he just climbed. "That was so cool!" Sultan, along with nine other homeless youth from the Seattle streets, was given the opportunity to rock-climb at Stone Gardens in Ballard on Monday morning.

SPU senior Bryce Phillips and his three classmates Ryan Bell, Katie Jordan and Brad Smith organized an event for the homeless kids in Seattle for their organizational behavior class. With the help of the Street Links program at the Seattle Children’s Home, Phillips’ group convinced sponsors to provide accommodations for transportation, breakfast and use of the entire Stone Gardens facility for an afternoon of rock climbing.

"Events like this are important for two reasons," said manager of the Street Links program Greg McCormak. "Homeless kids don’t get enough diverse exercise. Being homeless is extremely hard on the body, and this helps their health. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment. Self-esteem is real important."

Growing up in Roseburg, Ore., Bryce Phillips was surrounded by a diverse social and economic community. "I had friends on both sides of the spectrum," Phillips said. "One of my best friends’ dad is homeless, and another friend grew up in an extremely abusive home." Phillips’ exposure to underprivileged kids at a young age sparked his interest in poverty.

While driving through Seattle two years ago, Phillips was contemplating what contributions he could make to make a difference in the community. Suddenly he saw the sign for the Seattle Children’s Home and wrote down the Web address.

"It was so weird; I had never seen it [the Seattle Children’s Home] before. It was exactly what I was looking for." Three weeks later, Phillips began to volunteer.

"Bryce is a wonderful and unique person," said McCormak, who has volunteered with Phillips for the past two years. "He goes above and beyond in order to take our efforts [Street Links program] and puts it into his personal life."

Phillips seeks to correct common misconceptions about the homeless. "Some people see these kids spare-changing and wonder why they don’t just get jobs. But these aren’t just a bunch of punks that bum people for money; there’s a lot to it."

The homeless issue in Seattle is not improving; in fact, according to Phillips, the budget of the Seattle Children’s Home was decreased after President Bush’s tax cuts. And while the outpouring of support for Sept. 11 victims has been sizable, other organizations are struggling, thus making it more difficult for the home to cater to the needs of people on the street.

"Nonprofit organizations are really suffering right now," Phillips said.

Using his talents, Phillips has devoted a large amount of personal time to helping the community. Last winter Phillips was featured on the cover of "The Seattle Times" for organizing an event to take 17 homeless kids to Snoqualmie Pass to go skiing. He convinced Helly Hansen to donate 23 new ski outfits for the kids.

"In doing this there are three objectives," Phillips said. "First is providing service for the homeless kids. Providing a great opportunity for volunteers is second, and third is giving these kids a chance to just be kids."

Spending time on the slopes is not foreign to Phillips. Living the life of a professional skier takes up a significant part of his time.

Phillips skied sporadically throughout junior high and high school, and within a few years, he would be featured in industry magazines such as "Powder," "Skiing," "Freeze" and "Skier."

Phillips enrolled at SPU in the fall of 1995, when he skipped the occasional class to pursue his growing love for the slopes.

Catching the eye of K2, a major sponsor, Phillips became an intern at the Vashon Island company in the fall of 1997 and gained valuable insight into the workings of the ski industry.

Two years into his education, Phillips began spending his winters in Whistler, British Columbia. His exploits on the mountains of Whistler caught the attention of ski companies all over the Northwest.

Sponsored by companies such as Helly Hansen, Scott USA and Kavu, Phillips is slowly climbing his way to the top of the big mountain skiing world.

"I feel that Bryce’s skill level is at the top in the world," Kavu sponsor Barry Barr said. "He pushes the limit and boundaries with calculated risk."

Helly Hansen sponsor Gary Winberg, who dresses Bryce for the slopes, agrees. "Not only is Bryce an amazing athlete, but he has a good head on his shoulders."

The ski business has taken Phillips to Switzerland, France, Austria, Chile, Argentina and Canada.

"Travel for me has been one of the best parts of my education," Phillips said. "It has opened my eyes and made me realize how important it is to understand other cultures."

SPU has also contributed to combining travel and mission work in Phillips’ life. He went with a SPRINT team to Guatemala and studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain.

Phillips will be graduating this winter from SPU with a degree in finance. But this likely won’t be the last time SPU will see Bryce Phillips, either for extreme skiing or the outpouring of generosity for the homeless.

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Title: Pro skier gives back to youth | Author: Rachel Amondson | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2001-11-28 | Internal ID: 2333