For high school students, community service is generally a requirement; however, there’s a big difference between putting in a few hours a year and starting your own charity. Cory Gorczycki, 16, chose to do the latter. In 2015, Cory’s grandparents passed away just a few weeks apart from each other. It was during this tragic time that he turned to his long-time passion of skiing to cope with his grief.
“Not only is it good exercise, but you can clear your mind and focus only on skiing. You can only think about the road ahead,” explains Cory. “Not only do I enjoy the challenge, but it allowed me to shut my mind off from the world and have those hours of just being able to escape and relax.”
After a whole season of skiing, Cory thought of his grandparents and remembered their reputation of being charitable people. He knew of all the benefits skiing had brought him and wanted to spread that feeling to other children facing a difficult time. By July of 2016, Cory turned his idea into a reality with the creation of Ski4All, a non-profit organization based out of Franklin Lakes that makes free ski days accessible to those less fortunate. In coordination with Campgaw Mountain, Cory was able to organize three ski days for the foster children of Children’s Aid and Family Services of Northern New Jersey (CAFSNJ).
Sheila Riccardi, the communications director for CAFSNJ, speaks highly of Cory and his dedication to Ski4All. For the children in her care who have backgrounds of abuse, trauma and deprivation, learning how to ski was originally not something on their radar. But it quickly became something they put on their holiday wish list or a reward for good behavior.
“It is only with Ski4All’s support that the teenagers in our care are able to experience the joys of skiing,” said Riccardi. “Mastering a new skill boosts their confidence, and the sport of skiing is a wonderful channel for their energy. Physical exercise is especially important in helping them to heal.”
It was evident that the children enjoyed it just as much as Riccardi described. Cory recalls their reactions – the smiles on their faces and their ability to fall down and get back up again – as one of the most rewarding feelings since founding Ski4All. Some children even wanted to stay later and learn more, something he had the ability to do as an instructor at Campgaw. CAFSNJ was so inspired by the great outcome that they recently awarded Cory with their Youth Leadership Award.
The reactions paired with the support for the charity is what motivates Cory to balance his other responsibilities with Ski4All. As a junior in high school, Cory plays the trumpet in his high school band, is the Science & Tech editor for the school newspaper, a pitcher for the high school baseball team and rows on a club crew team. He admits it can be difficult to balance everything at once, but he splits his time up well by using free periods at school or catching up on work over the weekends.
Though Cory has everyone on board now, that wasn’t always the case. He expressed that some people were skeptical of his idea, being that skiing is considered a luxury sport. But he was adamant that it didn’t have to be. He was also concerned some mountains wouldn’t be able to allow time for it, but now that it has worked once, other mountains are open to it.
Cory’s mother, Sandee Springer, is especially supportive of her son and his decision to do something that directly impacts people. She’s seen how it has created a ripple effect among the local community.
“Some people are spontaneously helpful and some people want to help, but forget or are busy. I’m impressed by the adults who go out of their way to help. As a mom, I get emotional thinking about it,” says Sandee.
Sandee shared multiple instances in which shortly after Cory explained Ski4All’s mission to strangers, they were willing to help – even if in small ways. For example, a bank teller made a personal donation, a UPS employee comped his printing fees and their local Rotary Club was so impressed that they asked him to speak at their next meeting.
“I’m thankful that organizations like the Rotary Club were open to speaking to me and willing to hear me out. It’s nice that places have given it a fair shot and have given me support of any kind,” says Cory.
After having such great results their first year, Cory has even more in store for this upcoming season. His current goal is to organize ski days at least twice a month, something he thinks is easily achievable due to his discussion with more mountains and more organizations, such as The Boys & Girls Club of Lodi and Hackensack. Cory’s excited by the continuous exposure Ski4All has received, such as being asked to speak on a panel at the NJ Ski & Snow Resort because it only means he’s able to bring the joys of skiing to more kids.
Sandee sums it up best when she says, “He’s really embracing what my father-in-law was all about which is, if you can change one person’s life, you can make a difference. That’s what’s meaningful.”
By Natalie Zisa