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Underwriting Hope: How Red's Backyard is fostering a love of snowboarding in the next generation
• Jun. 27, 2024

At just 17 years old, snowboarder Redmond “Red” Gerard won a gold medal in slopestyle at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Back home in Silverthorne, Colorado, he’s making a difference in his own backyard to help get kids outside and make snowboarding a more accessible sport.

What started as a homemade snowboard park tucked into the slope behind his family’s home snowballed into Red’s Backyard, a non-profit dedicated to building free ski and snowboard terrain parks across the United States. The goal is to create spaces for kids and families to get outside, make new friends, and practice their snowboarding skills without having to worry about cost.

“I was very lucky with snowboarding because my parents could afford it, but it's not a cheap sport at all,” Red said. “We’re trying to figure out ideas of how to get city kids, and kids in general that wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity, into snowboarding so they can experience some of the things I got to experience as a kid.”

TD colleagues giving back

The mission behind Red’s Backyard resonated with Red’s uncle, Allen Gerard, Managing Director at TD Securities.

Allen nominated Red’s Backyard to receive support through TD Securities Underwriting Hope Fund, a TD Securities initiative that has raised more than C$30 million for children and youth-related organizations across North America. This colleague-driven initiative empowers TD colleagues to play an active role in helping to give back and enrich communities by nominating local charities to support.

For one month each spring, TD Securities colleagues in Canada and the United States come together to raise money for the TD Securities Underwriting Hope Fund through the annual Underwriting Hope Campaign. Together, colleagues raise money through online donations, silent auctions, colleague events, and live charity auctions in Toronto and New York. Colleagues can then apply for a registered child and youth charity of which they're involved to receive funding the following year.

“This is a way to give back to kids who don't have those opportunities to take part in outdoor sports," Allen said.

"We want to promote the idea of bringing people together, driving up to the mountain, spending the day up there and experiencing mountain life, experiencing snowboarding, and spending time with your family—and you don’t have to pay anything,”

Allen first nominated Red’s Backyard for the 2023 Underwriting Hope Campaign, and the non-profit was selected to receive funding. As part of this year's Underwriting Hope campaign, Allen will nominate Red's Backyard to receive support once again.

Allen says the initiative shows the value of combining an individual passion for building better communities with the power of a group of supportive colleagues at TD Securities.

Creating camaraderie through snowboarding

The Gerards are a sporty and outdoorsy family. Allen and his three brothers—including Red’s father, Conrad—grew up playing hockey, and continued to share their love of outdoor sports with their spouses and children, including skiing and snowboarding.

Growing up in Ohio in a family of eight children, Red joined his older brothers on the slopes during family trips. After years of visiting Colorado, the allure of mountain life led the Gerard family to move permanently to the small community of Silverthorne, just outside of Denver. Noticing the perfect slope on their property, Red and his brothers got their parents’ permission to build a snowboard park, complete with rails and a homemade rope tow.

A snowboarding prodigy, Red’s professional career kicked off early. He competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, winning the gold medal in the slopestyle—also earning the title of the first Winter Olympics medalist born in the 2000s.

With an Olympic gold medal under his belt before he even hit adulthood, Red decided to use his profile and following in the snowboard community to recreate the experiences, friendships, and camaraderie he had built in his childhood as the third youngest in a large family.

“There are a couple things I’m hoping for with Red’s Backyard, but one of the biggest things is for kids to make friends snowboarding. I think the number one thing that kind of gets you snowboarding is having a good friend group to be riding with,” Red said.

'Snowboarding is a great excuse to get outdoors'

The Gerards estimate that over the years, hundreds of kids have visited their backyard snowboarding run in Colorado, and thousands more have visited the three Red's Backyard terrain parks, located at Powdr Corp. resorts in Copper, Colorado, Park City, Utah, and Killington, Vermont. The non-profit is now something the entire family has become involved with, with several of Red’s siblings and his parents – Conrad and Jen Gerard – helping to run the operations.

At the same time, contributing to Underwriting Hope has become something of a family affair for the Gerards. Red’s older sister, Tieghan Gerard, is a well-known food blogger and creator of Half Baked Harvest, a popular Instagram channel that has led to several best-selling cookbooks. This year, she donated signed copies of her cookbooks to be auctioned off for this year's Underwriting Hope Campaign.

As Red’s Backyard continues to grow, the money received from TD Securities Underwriting Hope Fund will help go toward expanding its reach and services. Currently, Red's Backyard is exploring building more free terrain parks in new cities, hosting events, expanding relationships in the snowboarding community, and hopes to offer things like discounted lift tickets and discount used equipment in the future.

“We want to take Red’s Backyard to the next level. We want to promote the idea of, don’t just drop the kids off. For example, I'm a dad, I bring my kid up, and he snowboards for two hours in Red's Backyard park, and then maybe we grab something to eat, and there's some other activities to do to help bring the family together,” Allen said.

Red’s Backyard is a bit of a niche venture—you can only snowboard in certain areas, and during particular times of year, after all—but it’s a great example of combining personal passion and helping to serve the needs of the local community at the same time. And so far, Red says it’s a hit.

“I think it's really cool to see people share some of my interests and that they want to see kids get outside,” Red said.

“This is something that could be a really good thing in the future for getting kids moving and getting kids to be more involved in outdoor sports. Especially winter activities—in the winter, it's natural to be inside and not get as much activity. Snowboarding is a great excuse to get outdoors.”

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