BEAVER CREEK, Colorado - Jack DeTrempe and dozens of relatives and friends stood at the top of Beaver Creek and stared down, anxious to go. The cure for childhood diabetes was down there somewhere, and the more they skied, the faster they'd help find a cure.
When they were finished, eight hours and 1.3 million vertical feet later, they had raised more than $150,000 for their Alpine Children's Charity.
They don't have to look far for someone to help. DeTrempe was diagnosed with childhood diabetes when he was 13. He's 22 now and doing fine. Cousin Mike Rushmore was born with a heart defect.
If you think this is a family to sit and cuss out fate, think again.
They stand, and they stand together.
Their Alpine Children's Charity was started by a group of 14 cousins eight years ago, and kids run the whole thing. Their Junior Board membership now tops 20 dedicated souls.
Their charity is based on kids helping kids, said Luke DeTrempe, the current Junior Board president.
Their Junior Board is composed of kids between high school and the sixth grade. They do all the work. Luke's mom, Cindy DeTrempe, handles most of the legal work. She's also a regular supplier of Junior Board members. Luke is the youngest of her four sons, and they've all served.
"When we first came up with the idea, I was 8 years old. The oldest cousin was 17 at the time," Luke said. "My brothers did a good job helping me understand it.
"I've learned how important it is to help people and how lucky we are."
And this week, helping means skiing as fast as you can for as long as you can. Luke rolled up 60,584 vertical feet, not the most, but he was hindered slightly. The Junior Board president had to run registration the morning of the event while other people were skiing, so he didn't get started until 9 a.m.
Junior Board members learn leadership and strategy. They've learned to ask businesses and corporate executives for almost anything. They made their original pitch to Adam Aron when he was running Vail Resorts. They were 13 and 14 years old at the time.
They learned to make presentations, to recruit and work with different kinds of people and, most importantly, how to delegate.
"It's important to split up the work and make sure it gets done," Luke said.
Jack DeTrempe graduates in May from Miami University of Ohio with a major in marketing and a minor in entrepreneurship.
The Alpine Children's Charity teaches exactly the kinds of lessons his professors want him to learn: Start something from scratch, grow it, run it, and make it successful.
"It's great to give back for something that affects our family," Jack said.
Three charities will receive the money they raised this week: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The Children's Heart Foundation and Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. All three focus on funding research to cure diseases impacting kids (juvenile diabetes, congenital heart defects and pediatric cancer, respectively).
Most of the family lives in the Chicago area. The kids are growing up and scattering to the four corners of the globe, and it's getting harder and harder for people to make it. So last week's eighth-annual skiing event was the last. They'll keep the charity going with other events, such as their summer golf tournament.
"The kids on the Junior Board are graduating from college and high school and no longer have breaks at the same time. It's becoming almost impossible to schedule a winter skiing event," said Luke, a 17-year-old high school junior.
The motto is "Ski for Solutions and Board for Breakthroughs." Cures are the finish line, and they're not there yet, Luke said.
"The Junior Board would like to thank all its sponsors and donors over the years for helping make this event such an extreme success, and we owe a big thanks to our Senior Board - especially Cindy DeTrempe," Jack said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.