In 2005, Claire met fellow professional skier Lynsey Dyer at a freeskiing competition and they immediately bonded. In fact, you could probably say that encounter impacted the course of Claire’s life.
At the time, Lynsey and Vanessa Pierce had created SheJumps, which was originally a blog where they wrote profiles about amazing women—unsung heroes. The idea was to use these profiles to inspire other women to jump, take risks, and reach their highest potential. In 2007 Claire became a co-founder of SheJumps along with Lynsey and Vanessa, helping to turn SheJumps into the nonprofit that it is today. By 2008, and without a lawyer, Claire succeeded in getting SheJumps 501(c)3 status, and helped redefine the mission, to increase participation in outdoor activities. Claire is now Executive Director of the organization and in 2014 received Toyota's Everyday Hero Award for her work on behalf of SheJumps.
Pushing and inspiring women to jump for their dreams isn’t a fluffy vision, it is how Claire lives her life—in a perpetual stage of “jumping” and self-growth. She is stubborn (to use her own words), motivated by the potential of women, and won’t take no for an answer. Which is perfect, because her actions while evolving SheJumps speak so clearly to anyone out to create a meaningful impact and big life. Claire is a jumper—and here’s some of her story.
Anchor & Leap: SheJumps often talks about “unsung heroes” out in the world. Can you tell me more about how that idea resonates with the organization?
Claire: There are a lot of people who do things because it is just in their nature and it would be impossible not to do. We interviewed a woman on SheJumps who’s daughter has down syndrome. She wrote to us explaining that to her, her daughter was the best SheJumper because her daughter was the first one to practice every day and the last one to leave. She wasn’t the fastest, but she did it every single day. And that’s a story that isn’t going to necessarily get press.
At SheJumps we see the value in sharing stories like that because it helps other people come out of their shadows and find out that there is really something magical inside of them and that everyone has something that drives them. And the stories of unsung heroes help that thing come to life in the people who read them.
Anchor & Leap: In your own words, can you tell me the mission of SheJumps?
Claire: I would say that at the core of SheJumps, we want to create opportunities for women of all ages and backgrounds to get outside. That is at the very core of our mission, but what I think goes beyond that is that we are looking to build a community of women who are willing to help each other reach their highest potential and to take risks, whether that be in the outdoors or just in life. It’s about realizing that you have a great amount of potential within yourself to live the life you’ve always imagined, and that it is about constantly reevaluating that.
At SheJumps we believe that some of that reevaluation happens in the outdoors and that nature is one of our greatest teachers. So it’s a matter of knowing that and paying respect to that. In the mountains it is always okay to reverse and turn around and decide that you haven’t made the right choice—but we like to take that and apply that to life. And also using that to help guide you as you make your way through the adventure. SheJumps creates the mentality of, “If she can do it, so can I.”
Anchor & Leap: What is the primary long-term impact you want to achieve through SheJumps?
Claire: I specifically want to see SheJumps be the leading resource for women’s outdoor education. If I back up though, the biggest tangible goal is to truly connect women with their natural environment and feeling self sufficient in it, and that can done through many different types of experiences. I want SheJumps to be the go to place so that a woman of any age, background, and ability can find either some way to connect with another female in a meaningful way or to have an impactful experience in the outdoors.
People say they want to see more women in leadership positions, and I think there is a direct correlation between experience in the outdoors and sports with women finding themselves in those leadership positions. I want SheJumps to play a pivotal role in creating a really fertile environment to cultivate more of those leaders.
Anchor & Leap: Have you ever taken a big risk in order to continue pursuing what you love? Or a big risk that ended up largely impacting your journey?
Claire: I think the biggest risk that really impacted me was in June 2012 I got in a ski accident and blew my knee out pretty badly and have had two surgeries since then. Prior to that I felt like things in my life were going pretty well. Up to 2012 everything with SheJumps was going well, it was growing and I kept it to a size I was comfortable with—even though everyone wanted to see it grow. Then I got in this accident and I was forced to sit on a couch for 6 weeks and reevaluate everything that was going on in my life. One of the things that came up was the SheJumps had (and has) great potential, but that I wasn’t taking it or myself serious enough in terms of being the Executive Director.
What I mean by this is not just letting that role come to me but to really step into that role in a new way. Leading up to January 2013 was when we did a really big rebrand and restructuring of the organization and I started to really challenge myself in that role. I now see that manifesting that and taking my own advice that you can do anything, is realizing in a really big way that SheJumps has the opportunity to really change lives for a lot of people. And that is so scary sometimes but also so fulfilling.
So for me it is this constant jump that I am in right now. Sometimes I get really overwhelmed, I pretty much do the work of five people, and I start to think, “I don’t know if I’m qualified for all of this, maybe someone else should take over.” Then I realize that yeah, someone else could take over and I’m sure they could do a great job, but I’m not done yet. I want to see SheJumps get to where I know that it can be and have a strong foundation with a legacy that can live on forever.
The jump for me has been stepping into my own and realizing that I can run a national organization without ever having run a nonprofit before and that I can do a good job at it. Believing that is a risk in a way because there are always a million excuses for why you can’t do something. I look forward to maintaining this perpetual stage of jumping, so to speak, as SheJumps continues to grow over the next 3-5 years as we have planned with our next programs and initiatives and see SheJumps really make that big change in the world.
Anchor & Leap: I love the idea of the perpetual stage of jumping! I read an article recently that explained that when we put ourselves in really hard positions that it can create an ongoing internal questioning of, “Can I really do this?” And that slight discomfort is key to a life of growth.
Claire: Yeah I think I would definitely fall into that category.