VAIL — When the world lost freeskier Sarah Burke, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital also lost one of its biggest supporters in the world of winter sports.
Burke, a four-time X Games gold medalist halfpipe skier, died on Jan. 19, 2012, after landing on her head in a freak accident while training in Park City, Utah. Since that time, the Sarah Burke Foundation has aimed to bring awareness to the causes that were important to Burke.
Paramount among those was the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has made discoveries in research that have changed the way children with cancer are treated and saved countless lives along the way.
This past year, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital brought their Snow Angels fundraiser to Vail Cascade and Spa in honor of Burke. It was a first-time event with the hope of graduating to an annual fundraiser.
The event was a success, raising $118,000 for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and paving the way for the Snow Angel fundraiser to return to Vail this year on March 7, when local ski-movie star Chris Anthony will be presented with the Spirit of Sarah Burke Award.
“I’m more than honored to be receiving the Sarah Burke award,” Anthony said. “I believe in what St. Jude does just as Sarah did, but I only learned because of her involvement. Now I want to pay it forward.”
Anthony’s currency in paying it forward is his Youth Initiative Project, which he founded in an effort to improve the quality of life of young kids by introducing youth to educational enrichment opportunities.
“I know first-hand how helping kids was one of Sarah’s passions,” Anthony said. “As for me, I want to continue that energy in my working with kids through my the sport and my foundation. It is amazing what St. Jude has done in research and support if not a cure for our children that have come across misfortunes early in life, helping to find the treatment while providing hope and knowledge for a healthier tomorrow at no cost.”
Burke’s mother and sister attended the fundraiser for St. Jude in Vail this past year, where Burke was honored alongside those young cancer survivors that she so enthusiastically supported.
“Sarah called me in tears after she had been given a tour of St. Jude hospital,” recalled Jan Phelan, Burke’s mother, at the event. “She was so moved by all the good that St. Jude does.”
Burke’s sister, Anna Phelan, accepted the Snow Angel award from St. Jude for the foundation’s efforts for the hospital.
“With all that she accomplished in her life, this was the cause that stayed closest to my sister’s heart, and this award is one that I’m honored to receive on her behalf,” Phelan said at the event. “Thank you so much for honoring my sister Sarah tonight, I think if she were here this would be her proudest moment.”
Anna Phelan said like her sister, she has also been incredibly moved by meeting the children St. Jude is able to help.
“We can learn so much from these young people, to be better and more joyous versions of ourselves,” she said.
Among those young people was St. Jude patient Ella Dreamer, who turns 11 years old on April 13. Three years ago, Dreamer and her family found out she adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare form of cancer.
“I was that girl who liked to climb mountains and stuff, but I couldn’t walk. I didn’t want to walk,” Ella said at this past year’s fundraiser.
Ella’s mother, JD Dreamer, said the experimental radiation treatment Ella has received from St. Jude had reduced the size of her tumors and was keeping her alive.
“Ella is terminal, we don’t know how much time we have left, so we celebrate every day,” she said. “We love St. Jude; they’re amazing ... She’s still here beyond all statistics and really all belief.”
Ella Dreamer is scheduled to attend this year’s event.
The second annual Vail St. Jude Snow Angels event will take place March 7 at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $175 and tables of 10 are $1,500. This year’s event will also include a special kid’s table. Tickets for the kid’s table are $50. Ten seats are available. Tickets, tables and donations to this event may be purchased online at www.stjude.org/snowangels. All money raised at the event goes directly to support the life-saving mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 or jlaconte@vail daily.com