If you spend time on Vail mountain this Saturday, expect to see a lot of pink. Pink Vail, a one-day on-mountain fundraiser to support Shaw Regional Cancer Center's new survivorship program, will return for its second year Saturday. Skiers and riders participate in teams or as individuals to raise money for the event, and wearing pink is highly encouraged, if not mandatory.
Support for survivors
Charla Blizzard participated in the event last year and understands first-hand how the funds raised at Pink Vail help breast cancers patients and survivors. Blizzard was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago at the age of 42. She chose to have her treatment at Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards because of the personal attention the facility brought to her care.
"The Shaw is the best and I would tell anyone to stay there," Blizzard said. "The way they treat you, you don't feel like (just) another number. Everyone is so friendly and genuinely sincere."
After a double mastectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiation, Blizzard is now considered cancer free. As a breast-cancer survivor, Blizzard knows the value of the survivorship program and how much it has helped with her recovery. Known as "Spirit of Survival," the program seeks to provide support for survivors through fitness and wellness classes, emotional counseling, holistic healing, and other activities.
"Even when (the cancer) is removed, it's not over," Blizzard said. "In your mind and your body, it's not completely finished. You need (that support) after to keep going, to know you're going to live. (In the program) you're with other survivors and you can talk about things that are bothering you and everyone knows what you're going through."
Skiing down to lift spirits
Those who do not have a direct connection to the survivorship program see Pink Vail as an opportunity to raise awareness about breast cancer. Vail resident Grant Rohman lost his own mother to the disease in 2001, when he was only 20 years old. Since then Rohman has taken part in a number of Relay for Life events, but he likes that Pink Vail adds a creative twist to their fundraising day.
"I like the skiing aspect of (Pink Vail)," Rohman said. "It's more fun to get out and ski with your friends and family members."
Rohman said the best part of the event is at the end of the day, when all participants start at the top of the mountain and ski down together in one big group. Blizzard was not well enough to ski during the event last year. She's looking forward to being both a skier and survivor this time.
"It was just amazing, seeing everyone in pink and everyone committed to finding a cure," Blizzard said. "It reminds me of my last treatment. I came home and my friends brought over these pink balloons and we said goodbye to cancer and we released them. That's how it felt with all the survivors and their families during the ski down."
An 'emotional' day
Although singer-songwriter Charlie Mars does not know anyone with breast cancer personally, his father is a cancer survivor.
"I have empathy and understanding with regards to what (cancer) does to people," Mars said.
As part of Pink Vail, Mars will perform a free concert on Saturday at Arrabelle Square in Lionshead starting at 5 p.m. Mars doesn't like talking about his music. He would prefer that people take a moment to listen to it instead.
"My message is always that the songs stand for themselves," Mars said. "To try and interpret them with other words sometimes removes you from the song itself."
Even if you don't ski as part of Pink Vail, Mars' concert is one to see. Born in Mississippi, Mars still calls the state his home and finds his small-town lifestyle frees him up to focus on what he excels at: Writing songs. For Mars, songwriting is about expressing through music that which cannot be expressed verbally.
-"I'm trying to get down some emotional truth and present it so that it's not a hallmark card, not use too many cliches and (write) something that feels close to the bone," Mars said.
Mars' soulful songs describe love, loss, longing, and the human condition a poetic way that's pleasing to the ear. The musician is also a captivating live performer, able to draw people in with his powerful voice and intimate stage presence. Mars' songs are a mix of party jams and meaningful slow tunes, making his music a perfect fit for an event designed to combine many locals' favorite activity with a worthy cause.
"Last year (was) pretty emotional for everybody, but it (also) seemed like a lot of people were having fun, " Rohman said.
Pink may seem like a silly color to base an event around, especially when it's focused on a serious disease. But in a way pink is the perfect color because it's bright and vibrant, reminding us that it's possible for people to survive breast cancer and go on to live full, happy lives. Pink Vail may be a fundraiser, but it's also a day to celebrate those who have lived through it and the hope they bring to others.