Maine Winter Sports Center, a nonprofit that started 17 years ago with a mission to get people in Northern Maine on skis, is changing its name to the Outdoor Sport Institute. Andy Shepard, MWSC's founder and president, told Mainebiz today that the name change reflects a new identity and greatly expanded role for the nonprofit, which will remain based in Caribou but will now operate in all seasons and in all 16 Maine counties and beyond.
As president and CEO of OSI, Shepard will be responsible for the organization's strategic vision, which includes developing a sustainable funding model to ensure its long-term success. Mike Smith will continue as chief operating officer and program director and Dick Trafton, an attorney in Auburn, will be chairman of OSI's board.
Shepard characterized OSI as evolving out of MWSC's initial mission of using winter sports, particularly cross-country skiing and biathlon competitions adding rifle shooting to the skiing, to boost Aroostook County's economy. "The fact is that we've been providing year-round, world-class and award-winning outdoor sport programming for over a decade and we need a name that reflects that story," he said, adding that outdoor sport education programs such as trail running and canoeing have empowered people of all ages throughout Maine "to redefine what is possible in their lives."
"We're in 140 communities around the state," he said. "OSI allows us to focus on what we do without having to explain that 'winter sports' isn't the only thing that we're doing."
Shepard said OSI will maintain its headquarters in Caribou, adding that boosting Aroostook County's economy very much will remain a strong focus within its overarching mission of using outdoor sports education to empower and improve the lives of Mainers, particularly those living in rural areas.
He said the name change and rebranded mission was announced Thursday at a reception hosted by H.M. Payson at Portland's Ocean Gateway Pier. He estimated that approximately 200 people attended the event. "It was a great evening, a great turnout," he said. "Last night was an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable success MWSC has had over 17 years, as well as an opportunity to focus on our new endeavor."
"We built world-class Nordic ski venues and alpine ski areas, we trained 15 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, we impacted the lives of thousands of Mainers and achieved $100 million in economic impact," said Shepard, who was honored by Mainebiz as its 2011 nonprofit business leader of the year.
"The time has come to seize the best of what we learned and refocus that energy on being a powerful force for change as an outdoor sport education institution."
Shepard said OSI has launched a new website and has retired its old one. In addition to maintaining its headquarters in Caribou, he said the organization also has an office in South Freeport where he lives. He said OSI works with roughly 40 nonprofit and for-profit outdoor organizations across Maine, including Maine Huts & Trails and the Alfond Youth Center. Corporate donors include L.L.Bean, Emera Maine and the Harold Alfond Foundation.
Capital campaign to build endowment
Shepard said OSI is in the midst of a major capital campaign to add to the $2 million donated by Presque Isle native Mary Barton Smith in November 2014. Smith has pledged to match up to $3 million in donations received between now and January 2017 in a challenge that, if successful, would bring her original gift and matching pledge up to $8 million for the organization, which has set a goal of achieving a $20 million endowment over the next decade.
Smith's late husband, Rodney, who died in 2007, was an electrical engineer and a pioneer in the development of the semi-conductor industry in Silicon Valley. Together, they shared a commitment to making a difference beyond the business world through their philanthropy, he said.
"Mary is excited by the mission of OSI to empower people to create healthier, more purposeful lives and is proud to help our campaign," he said. "[She's] excited by the new mission of OSI and she believes our expanded mission can reach more people and have a greater long-term impact on individuals."
Kelly Frost of Frost Advancement Advisors will provide overall strategic counsel and lead OSI's $3 million matching gift campaign. Melanie Spencer of Maine Street Solutions, a public affairs and consulting service based in Augusta, will provide grant-writing expertise and Ethos, a Westbrook-based multiplatform branding agency, will support strategic marketing initiatives, including social media marketing and content strategy.
Thursday's launch of the new nonprofit marks the end of MWSC. Shepard noted that the alpine facilities it previously owned and built with financial support from the Libra Foundation are now being managed by nonprofit volunteer organizations in the host communities and are owned by the nonprofit Pineland Farms Inc.
"We're exceptionally proud of that legacy, even if we don't own those facilities anymore," he said.