A lifelong dream becomes reality
In 1982, General Robert C. Mathis and his wife, Greta, retired from a 34 year career in the Air Force to bring a family dream to reality. They had long dreamed of creating a place where people with disabilities could experience and share what an able-bodied person might take for granted. They came to Bozeman and established the I Am Third Foundation (based on Matthew 22) to build Eagle Mount.
Early programs took off like a shot
In the fall of 1983, with the help of the Mathises son, Harry, and Cyndi Fonda Dabney, the Eagle Mount ski program began to take form. The idea was to start with a modest program of 20 to 30 people, teaching them either Alpine or Nordic skiing. Very quickly, it became necessary to put people on the waiting list after reaching 94 skiers and almost 100 volunteer instructors. People with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, visual and hearing impairments, developmental disabilities, amputations and spinal cord injuries skied one day a week with their own personal volunteer instructor. Eagle Mount had only just begun. The early programs took off like a shot, starting with skiing and followed close behind by horseback riding, swimming and the Big Sky Kids camps for children with cancer.
Facilities grew with inspired gifts
In the mid-eighties, the de Rham family stepped forward with the gift of ten acres of land for a home base. In the mid-nineties a riding arena was donated and moved to Bozeman from Big Sky. In 2007-08, one of the last big pieces of the Mathises dream fell into place with the addition of the Tim and Mary Barnard Aquatic Therapy Center. And in 2010, the de Rham family came through once again, with a gift that helped to double Eagle Mounts campus, now at 19 acres.
No one is turned away
In the early years, there was never enough money. More than once, the fledgling organization came perilously close to folding. But the Mathises never lost faith. Every time things looked grim, they would take heart from the courage of the participants and press forward. Bob and Greta never turned away anyone who could not pay Eagle Mounts modest program fees, and they never sought government funds. To this day, Eagle Mount is funded entirely through private dollars.