GIVING THANKS: Read on to see how the 2018 Great Fish Community Challenge is impacting the mission of local nonprofits for the better:


No one should be forced to live in an unsafe, unhealthy, unaffordable place.  For many families in our communities that is their story. At Habitat for Humanity of Flathead Valley we work to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live!  The Great Fish Community Challenge granted $88.837.98 towards our mission.  The result – 888+ square feet of safe, healthy, and affordable housing can be built. A home for a family creates a story of strength, stability and self-reliance. It transforms their world – our world.  That’s our partner family’s experience – their story.  Working together, it’s our story! Grateful!


Deepest gratitude to the donors, Circle of Giving members and Great Fish Challengers… your hearts for abused and neglected kids in our Valley are changing lives through your support of Child Bridge.  This year, $137,270 was raised via 83 gifts. Child Bridge has recruited the vast majority of the families who care for approximately 200 local kids in foster care and touches most of the children and the families who care for them with resources and relationships. Local children are finding hope and healing in foster/adoptive families in their time of need.  Just think…where would these children be without you?

“Chaos…that’s how I describe my life before I was 10.  My parents weren’t bad people, but they got caught up in drugs.  My mom was an addict and dad went to prison for dealing. I loved my family and as a kid, I felt like maybe I could keep us all together if I tried hard enough. I’m a great big sister and took good care of my little sister and brother.  But no matter how hard I tried to control my parents’ actions or manage my brother and sister’s emotions, things fell apart. I have a long story, but what matters most to me is that when we were removed my brother and sister and I got to stay together– that doesn’t usually happen.  We were all adopted by a really good family.” ~14 year-old Lizzy, adopted by a Child Bridge family


Strategic planning for a College Center at FVCC began in 2014 when a need was identified for a more comprehensive student life program and a larger venue for enriched learning opportunities for students and the community.  Funds raised through the Great Fish Community Challenge will help build the College Center to address these needs.  College Center construction will begin spring 2019, with plans to open the facility in fall 2020.  This project will impact 3,405 credited FVCC students and thousands of Flathead Valley residents annually.

“I have met so many fellow students at Flathead Valley Community College and have learned what is important to them and their education. I can say without a doubt that the new College Center will be a huge leap forward in crafting an even better educational environment for every student who walks our campus.” ~Emily Baker, Health Science student, FVCC Student Government President


THANK YOU so very much for tirelessly supporting our community non- profits.  Stumptown Art Studio raised $28,976 through the 2018 Great Fish Challenge, (including a matching grant of $9780), providing critical funding for our efforts to provide art programs and services that enrich our community.  We are grateful for the opportunity to bring people of all ages and abilities together to share their creative talents, passions and customs.  And we are honored to be a part of such an amazing community that is progressing in a positive direction thanks to forward thinking leaders such as the Whitefish Community Foundation & Great Fish Challengers!  The future is bright, Whitefish!


Music enriches our world and has the power to change lives and our community.  The Great Fish Challenge has changed fundraising in the Whitefish area and continues to help NVMS keep lessons and programs accessible to everyone.  This year we served over 700 students through private lessons (208), group classes (100), Suzuki classes (12), Glee Club (54), Acoustic Jam (4+/week), and Instrument Petting Zoos (300+), the latter four are completely funded through the Great Fish Community Challenge.


The 2018 Great Fish Community Challenge gift to CRYJ totaled $37,323! Your generosity supports opportunities for more than 200 local teens to develop life skills, foster community connections and explore healthy decision-making. CRYJ’s accountability and empowerment workshops increase community safety by providing justice system diversion, breaking cycles of harm, and improving opportunities for teens who are currently, or at risk of entering the justice system. The Great Fish Challenge is an invaluable resource in helping the Flathead Valley community address the needs of young people and those who care for them with empathy, insight and innovation.

“I first showed up at CRYJ when I might of otherwise gone to juvenile detention, it was a scary time… Since then communication with my mom has improved and I have been given a safe place to think about what is real for me and what direction I want to go in life. I feel more supported. This program really helped, thank you for making CRYJ possible.” ~ Elliot, 16. 2018 CRYJ Program Participant


The donations raised during the Great Fish Challenge 2018 will fund the NVH Education-Simulation activities for the next 18-24 months.  NVH will be able to contract with the non-profit SIM-MT mobile simulation lab to visit the hospital on a regular basis and train with the clinical care teams on a rotating schedule.  These interdisciplinary team based real-life simulations with high fidelity mannequins are the state of the art training for rural hospitals. The additional funds raised will help to convert semi-private rooms to private rooms on the med/surg floor and help to install noise reduction improvements in rooms.


FYH received $35,135 through the GFC. This funding is an investment in developing supportive relationships between youth and staff. These relationships form the basis for the healing in their lives. In our care, we become their “people”; the ones to walk with them through the challenges and celebrations of their lives. An excerpt from a past resident’s letter sums up best what support from our community through the GFC means,

“Staff at FYH are completely compassionate. They have done nothing but support me, nurture me, and simply be here for me…. They willingly participate in my journey through grievance, sobriety, and fellowship. I love them all.”


Thank you so much Whitefish Community Foundation for connecting the Flathead Food Bank and other amazing organizations with donors to help us fulfill our missions. With the communities’ support, we will be able to provide nutritious food to over 7,500 individuals each year at our Kalispell and mobile pantry locations in the Canyon and Kila/Marion area. In addition to over 400 students a year in our Back Pack program and 750 seniors in our senior commodity program.


Tamarack Grief Resource Center (TGRC) was granted $26,755 through the Great Fish Community Challenge!  Wow! Funding from the Whitefish Community Foundation and other supporters will allow TGRC to offer grief support to kids and adults through grief camps and retreats, classroom guidance activities and community workshops.

“Thank you for all of your support and shared resources. It helped to soothe our start of the school year and helped the kids cope following their Dad’s death. We are so lucky to have such an awesome resource in our community.” ~ a Mom of TGRC program participants


At Project Whitefish Kids (PWK), we believe that every child should have the opportunity to participate in organized sports, to spend time outside with their peers and mentors, and feel the energy and love of their community and family members cheering them on.  Making this vision a reality takes resources, and over the last 4 years, the Great Fish Community Challenge has completely transformed our ability to effectively manage the Smith Fields Sports Complex. Great Fish grants have provided funding for maintenance, a tractor, aerator, plug processor, turf management, playground equipment and installation, and many tool repairs. Because the Great Fish Community Challenge makes PWK financially stronger every year, PWK can develop plans for complex improvements, AND focus on governance and strengthening the organization, which in turn makes us better stewards of this valuable community asset.


This fall, the Intermountain Day Treatment program at Muldown Elementary School in Whitefish has served five children grades K-4 by working collaboratively to support the children and their families in improving and enhancing their relationships. The program and its staff have been working to meet both the children’s academic needs as well as their therapeutic needs by providing Individual/Family/Group Therapy, sychoeducational Skills, Enhanced/Individualized Academic Instruction, and Behavioral Support. These children have goals of transitioning back into the general education setting with the support of a special education teacher, master’s level psychotherapist, mental health support specialist, and case manager.


Through the Whitefish Community Foundation Great Fish Community Challenge donations, special grant funds, and the match of 51% on the first $20,000, FOFAC received a total of $38,199.61. These funds directly impact our ability to meet the demand for avalanche and snow safety education.  As anticipated, the 2018-2019 winter education schedule is completely filled which includes valley school programs, FVCC, government entities, and Flathead County Search and Rescue, Level I and II Avalanche training classes, women specific classes, along with motorized use organizations. Additionally, the Avalanche Centers forecasters are out in the field producing weekly snow pack and avalanche forecasts posted on the Flathead Avalanche Center website with the potential to reach 30,000 users. The increase in people moving to the Flathead Valley to take advantage of the multitude of recreational opportunities makes it imperative for avalanche and snow safety education to grow and meet increased demands, helping to save lives.


On behalf of all the homeless pets at the Humane Society of Northwest Montana that are being helped by the Whitefish Community Foundation, it is a joy to report that our Great Fish Community Challenge grant in the amount of $10,200 is being applied to our direct critical care program. Since receiving the grant on October 18th, the Humane Society has used 22% of the funds to spay five puppies, neuter eight puppies, neuter one adult cat, and vaccinate three puppies, two adult cats and two adult dogs.


‘The 2018 Great Fish Challenge raised $112,043.51 for Whitefish Legacy Partners ensuring conservation, education, and recreation on local lands for future generations. During a recent scouting trip, we encountered elk grazing the south-facing slopes above Smith Lake. The cows and a few playful calves were migrating from Flathead National Forest down through private lands to their winter ranges on DNRC State Trust Lands. Permanently protecting the critical habitat, clean water, and scenic views of the Smith Creek drainage lies at the heart of our Close the Loop project, and the Great Fish Challenge allows this important work to thrive.’


When you look at our fundraising efforts over the past decade, there’s a significant jump the first year we were invited to participate in the Great Fish Challenge. It put Whitefish Review in a place to better plan ahead and have a more stable footing as we published the journal to an increasingly wider audience (200 stores nationally now) as well as hosting literary events that feature Whitefish up-and-comers alongside literary greats. While Whitefish Review has always thought on a national level, we are still hyper-local, grounded in this town we love and the people who have supported us. Raymond Carver said that “small presses are the backbone of the American literature” and the Great Fish Challenge certainly has our back!