Pink Vail’s “Last Run” is happening this weekend
After 10 years, popular fundraiser comes to an end with a pandemic-friendly way to raise money and enjoy the outdoors
This year marks the last Pink Vail after a decade-long run of raising money for the Spirit of Survivorship programs at the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards. Due to the pandemic, a large gathering with concerts, awards parties and other revelry could not be hosted, so this year Pink Vail will be held over the entire weekend rather than on one day.
From today through Sunday, Pink Vail is more of a “your day, your way” type of model. It’s not limited to Vail Mountain, some may decide to bring the Pink Vail spirit over to Beaver Creek. It’s not limited to snowsports, either. Hiking, biking and walking around your neighborhood are all encouraged.
“As we saw events return across the nation and began to explore various formats, we knew that the spirit of Pink Vail could shine through while still allowing participants to get on the hill or outside with the people they love,” said Christine Albertson, community outreach and events manager for Vail Health. “A silver lining is that people from across the globe can celebrate the spirit of Pink Vail in their own unique way.”
Kirsten Zeller started doing Pink Vail “because I love pink and I love dressing up on the slopes,” said the long time local about her involvement.
“I started out with the Beaver Liquors team in 2016 and they we formed a team in 2018 for our friend, Kim Kelly Lai, who lost her battle with bile duct cancer, a very rare and aggressive cancer. She benefited from a lot of the programs that Pink Vail supports,” Zeller said.
Susan Catalano participated in Pink Vail during its early years because it sounded fun, but soon learned how the money raised was used to help others.
“I took a tour of the Shaw Cancer Center. I was so impressed by the care, camaraderie and love. It contrasted starkly with my experience with my family at a large university cancer center. I do wish all cancer patients could receive such great care. The more I learned, the more passionate I became,” Catalano said.
2012 was not only the year Pink Vail began, it was also a pivotal year for Debbie Oropeza of Kingwood, TX that would prompt her involvement in Pink Vail.
“In the first six months of 2012, my mother, sister, and father-in-law were all diagnosed with cancer. My sister, Heidi Ham, is a breast cancer survivor and was treated at Shaw in 2012. Pink Vail provides a way for us to honor them as well as friends and family that have battled cancer.”
Zeller’s team, “Tele Kim…We Miss Her…No Lai” plans on skiing and snowboarding Vail all three days of the event, but hopes to get a majority of the team together for après ski for those who can’t get out on the hill.
Catalano’s group, “Wonderwomen,” will ski Vail on Sunday.
“I make a large breakfast and we drink coffee and get dressed up,” Catalano said. Look for pink wigs, pink t-shirts and capes with a large “W” on them and tutus with ribbons attached.
“Each ribbon has the name of a relative or close friend for whom each of us personally ski,” Catalano said. Catalano honors several close friends, her mother, sister and brother and herself, as she is a cancer survivor. “Unfortunately, each year brings new ribbons.”
Oropeza and her husband, Mike, won’t be able to join their team, “Win4Heidi,” in Colorado this year but will walk around their neighborhood wearing plenty of pink and their “Win4Heidi” t-shirts in support of the cause.
“During the day, we will post pictures on social media of our team and we’ll also plant trees and flowers to honor our loved ones,” Oropeza said. “Then, we will have a Zoom call with our team to raise a glass or two and celebrate another great year.”
At press time on Thursday, Catalano and Zeller were in the top ten for individual rankings according to pinkvail.com:
1. Susan Catalano – $41,868
7. Kirsten Zeller – $10,298
These ladies’ teams were also ranked in the top ten for team rankings at press time:
1. Wonderwomen – $64,193
8. Win4Heidi – $13,073
9. Tele Kim…We Miss Her…No Lai – $11,456
During the past nine years, Pink Vail has raised more than $5 million for the Spirit of Survival program. With the funds raised in 2021, Shaw will have enough cash reserves to fund the program for years to come.
“In addition, the Vail Health Foundation is exploring ways to solidify financial support for Spirit of Survival program in perpetuity,” Albertson said.
When asked how they and their teams are able to garner so much financial support, these women say it’s easy when you care about the cause so much.
“It was easier to become motivated to fundraise after losing a close friend. I started fundraising in 2016 and it is such a small thing that you can do to benefit people in our valley. I ask every single person I know to donate,” Zeller said.
“When people want to say thank you by offering to take me to dinner or giving me a hostess gift, I always thank them and ask that they please donate instead. Whether it’s a few dollars or more, over the course of a year, a few dollars here and there add up,” Catalano said.
It’s been dubbed “The Last Run,” the end of an era and a remarkable demonstration of a grass roots effort to find non-traditional ways to help those struggling with all kinds of cancers. To learn more, sign up to participate or to donate go to pinkvail.org.