Vail Daily column: Stars align for Youth Foundation
July 24, 2014
Sarah Will wheeled as gracefully as any footed dancer and captured her audience completely.
Her pro partner, Colin Meiring, had plenty to do with the capstone performance Monday at the Star Dancing Gala, too, in his third turn of the evening. Together they slayed this crowd of 800.
The key word for the Parallel Olympics champion with 12 gold medals is right there in her last name. You only have to meet her once to know this is a being forged of pure will.
She's athletic, gorgeous, smart and has zero problem with saying exactly what she thinks. So when she spoke on screen before her dance about the many virtues of the Youth Foundation, her message was powerful. Add this dance and, well, the crowd in the Jet Center was brimming over.
Time for the auction.
This event may well hold the crown for fundraising events in a community rife with them. The auction alone routinely raises more than a half-million dollars. This year it was $863,000 — scooped up in, oh, about an hour.
The ease with which many in this audience can raise a paddle as bidding for this or that reaches into the $20,000 and $30,000 range can be startling for mere mortals filling in the valley's workforce. That's around a year's wages.
I understand the awe and even jealousy of some of us among the unmoneyed classes even if I don't feel it myself. Society's tidal currents notwithstanding, personal meaning, contribution, fulfillment are not counted in coin by the human soul even if organizations of all kinds must ride on dollars.
But stereotypes are hard to shake, whether dealing with occupations, ethnicities or social stations. Our conflicted feelings about money, perhaps tied most directly to what particular jobs are worth and that always nagging undertow for those who believe "I deserve more, more, more for my work" lay out bare fairness questions, among others.
These age-old considerations strike at the core of capitalism, politics, foreign policy, society's values and such, as well as individuals' sense of worth, most perniciously.
The root of the evil here is not the coin itself but the covetousness that money inspires. The fascinating part for me is that the pursuit of happiness lies on a different path than so many of us take to try to catch it, liable to measure by just the wrong currency.
It's important to understand that at root, our hearts are no bigger or smaller for our bank accounts, though. Selfish bastards and saints alike cross the income strata at the same ratios.
That said, we're blessed that the valley's demographics and prevailing spirit work in favor of community service, a pillar in our collective quality of life. The wealthy in our community do in fact make a big difference, with their time and brains as well as their financial contributions.
The event was notably short of selfish bastards, as far as I could tell. And the organizers may well have reached their goal of opening everyone's wallet for the Youth Foundation, which provides a variety of services to help 3,800 students improve their prospects in life.
Jason Glass, Superintendent of Eagle County's public schools, got his band The Atomic three gigs for $20,000 apiece in a few minutes of Jason Lamoreaux's clever auctioneering. He joked later that he couldn't wait to tell his band mates that they struck gold and would get none of it.
Annah Scully was beaming long after all the performances and auctioneering. The dance floor still writhed with a dense pack of attendees while the bartenders packed up. Her Vail Performing Arts Academy kids had shined again.
She and her group are a huge part of what makes this event click each year. After all, it's hard to beat energetic, talented kids giving their all. This year they closed out the performance part of the event with a popular Black Eyed Peas piece, "Time of My Life."
Susie Davis — the force as executive director who built, shepherded and inspired the Youth Foundation program to the powerhouse that merged with the Vail Valley Foundation — early on endured a long standing ovation much like Derek Jeter at the All Star game in his last stellar baseball season in recognition of much the same impact she has had on her community as he did in his sport.
Her shoes are huge. But the Foundation found maybe the one person who could hope to begin to fill them and keep the organization stepping forward: now-former Avon Elementary Principal Melisa Rewold-Thuon.
As the Foundation's leader, Susie was the stuff. So is Melisa.
Yep, I'd say this community is richer even than the sum of its dollar power.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.