Charity Spotlight: Ellen Ross / Bozeman Flames
Inclusion, Opportunity and Growth for All in Bozeman
Ellen Ross faced a dilemma eight years ago. Her son was graduating from high school. While this transition often presents new challenges for graduates and their parents, Ellen’s dilemma was a little more complicated. Ellen’s son, Nick, enjoyed participating in many of his high school’s activities. However, she knew after graduation, his field of opportunity was going to shrink.
Ellen was determined to keep her son with disabilities caused by a seizure disorder, exposed to new opportunities. In September 2012 she formed the Bozeman Flames, a Special Olympics team in the Big Sky Area of Special Olympics Montana. Today, the Bozeman Flames train and compete in eighteen sports throughout the year, including soccer, basketball, swimming, cycling, horseback riding, bowling, skiing, floor hockey, track, and more. Each athlete participates in multiple sports, keeping them active, connected, and growing intellectually with each new challenge and experience.
Since forming the team, Ellen has remained committed to the team’s success. She coaches basketball, track, and soccer, and recruits coaches for the other sports. Ellen also serves as the team’s fundraiser, bookkeeper, and local program coordinator. This means she spends, on average, 10 – 15 hours a week to keep the Bozeman Flames organized, operating, and well-funded. Ellen does all of this on top of an already busy day job at Montana Wealth Management, where she supports Kerry Hatcher, an advisor to over 900 households.
The Bozeman Flames have been recognized by the Special Olympics in Montana several times, including receiving honors like Team of the Year for 2015 and having one of their coaches recognized as Coach of the Year in 2019. They regularly compete in the Montana state games. In November, the unified co-ed basketball team lost by one point in the championship game to the team they beat last year by one point! This was the most exciting game ever!
Keeping the team well-funded is not an easy task. Ellen estimates it costs $12,000 each year to compete in all the sports, pay for hotel rooms, pay for all meals as well as registration fees. There are several fundraising events, including a Polar Plunge, where the team receives 60% of the donations. The athletes also sell Special Olympics $5 MTN/Chevy raffle tickets starting in January through May. This fundraising effort requires athletes/parents to sell tickets 2-3 weekends a month and yields them the most significant financial benefit since they can keep 80% of the proceeds.
The athletes themselves work hard to support the team. They have been blessed to come in over budget for several years, thus had the ability to attend the USA Games in Seattle during the summer of 2018. This was an amazing experience for all who were able to attend and watch the different competitions. Sometimes more money is needed. “If someone qualifies for the USA games in 2022, I will find a way for us to get there,” said Ellen.
When it comes to the Bozeman Flames, Ellen won’t stop. In her own words, “I do this for the kids. They need these experiences. They need the opportunity to do more and to do better.”
Want to help Ellen meet her $12,000 goal for 2020? The Bozeman Flames is a 501(c)(3), and you can mail a direct donation to Special Olympics Montana, c/o Ellen Ross, 1455 W Oak St, Bozeman, MT 59715, with Bozeman Flames listed in the memo section of the check.
To learn more about Ellen Ross, Kerry Hatcher, and Montana Wealth Management, visit https://montanawm.com/.