In the heart of Denver, Colorado, are some of the country's most beautiful mountains, vistas and national parks. Roberto Lopez Moreno noticed the lack of minority populations on the slopes or hiking through the Rockies. He recognized that though there were Hispanics working within the mountain sports industry, they weren't participating recreationally or in front-line positions. As a result, he founded Alpino Mountain Sports Foundation along with the "Camp Moreno" project, an advocacy group focused on multicultural outreach in the mountain areas. Since 2005, Roberto's organizations have brought over 22,000 underserved Colorado children and families outdoors.
Roberto's love of the outdoors began over 50 years ago. His parents, both farm workers, saw a movie called The Long, Long Trailer that featured actor Desi Arnaz camping in Yosemite National Park. "My father said, 'If Desi Arnaz can camp, then so can we!'" recalls Roberto. Camping in Yosemite became a family tradition every summer – and is one Roberto continues today.
"There is aspirational value associated with outdoor recreation," says Roberto. "When you take a child from a poor area and they see a mountain for the first time, it's empowering. He realizes there is a world out there much bigger than his own."
Bill Gwaltney, Assistant Regional Director for the National Parks Service, took note of Roberto's family story during a brainstorm session about bringing the minority community outdoors. "If families were worried about camping or skiing, Roberto could tell his story. It brings a level of comfort that other programs miss," says Bill. Roberto's family history became "Camp Moreno," a weekend of camping for Denver-area minority families who have never been to the Rocky Mountains.
"The reality is that people need to feel invited and welcomed into the outdoors if they haven't been before. Roberto gives these families that," says Bill. Camp Moreno provides the families with tents, sleeping bags and even gas money if they can't afford it. "You must get families to understand the value of the outdoors," says Roberto. "It is an affordable and fun way for them to experience the parks in their city."
"Right now 55% of children under the age of 5 in this country are minorities," says Roberto. "We need to bring resources to keep them interested in the outdoors so that they can help protect the outdoors."
For more information on Alpino Mountain Sports Foundation, visit alpino.org.