The stories behind some of Pink Vail’s ski teams
Special to the Daily
In a sea of pink-clad skiers, snowboarders and revelers of all ages, many feel part of a 2,500-person team fighting cancer. Pink Vail unites families, friends and perfect strangers from around the world to honor those who have fought a battle with the disease. And because the funds benefit patients with all types of cancer, the cause resonates with everyone.
Months before the event on Saturday, March 16, teams are rallying to raise funds for patient care and survivorship programs at Shaw Cancer Center. A quick glance at the leaderboard on http://www.pinkvail.com shows the top 15 fundraising teams. Names like Treasured Chests, Hawaii Cure-O and Pink Veiled Whales hint at the creativity and enthusiasm that makes Pink Vail such a fun way to conquer cancer. Many teams carry the names of people they’re fighting for. The members of Jerry’s Torch, Patsy’s Pasties, Team Kris, Rebel Yells and Win4Heidi share their reasons for coming together and raising funds for survivors at Shaw.
It’s not every day that someone is asked to carry the Olympic torch, but Jerry Anderson was honored in this way at the London Games in 2012. Jerry had built and worked on Olympic venues across the world as an event architect, and carrying the torch was a true highlight of his career.
“He was very proud and excited that he got to run with the torch outside of London,” explained his wife, Rebecca Blank.
Jerry passed away of cancer in September of 2018. Rebecca recalls the kindness and support he received during his treatments at Shaw Cancer Center.
“We just really appreciated the facilities and the staff that was provided for him,” she said. “So we decided to put together a team in his honor to raise money for Shaw.”
Just as the Olympic torch was passed through Jerry’s hands and all those before and after his quarter-mile with it, his bright spirit lives on through Jerry’s Torch and the cause it illuminates.
Learn more about the team at http://www.pinkvail.com/jerry-s-torch.
Sometimes dinner parties are where the best (or most candid) ideas are exchanged. That is certainly the case for the reason behind the team name, Patsy’s Pasties.
Mary Lou Armour has participated in Pink Vail from its inception in 2012, but it was over a few bottles of wine and lots of laughter that she enlisted some friends in the cause. She and her husband, Bob, were sitting with couples Peter and Angela Dal Pezzo and Dale and Pat Seal.
“Pat is a two-time breast cancer survivor and had just gone through her second mastectomy,” Mary Lou explained. “This was right before her breast cancer reconstruction and we were talking about Pink Vail. Patsy’s Pasties, of course, came up.”
While Mary Lou said the team doesn’t actually wear pasties at this family-friendly event, they do have ribbons on their helmets with some pasties attached.
“We dress the boys up as well,” she said. “All our husbands participate and it’s a hoot, and all for a very special reason.”
Learn more about Pat and the team at http://www.pinkvail.com/patsy-s-pasties.
Renee Okubo started Team Kris in honor of her friend, Kris Sims. Sims was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and Okubo said what Shaw provided Sims was the personalized attention she needed in a quiet and beautiful environment. Despite her courageous four-year fight, Sims passed surrounded by her loved ones on June 14, 2018.
Along with her loss of Sims, Okubo’s husband passed away from head and neck cancer nine years ago, and Okubo herself is a breast cancer survivor.
“This makes me a very strong supporter of the cause,” Okubo said of Pink Vail.
Sims’ daughter, Lindsay Olson, is also a member of Team Kris. She recalls, “Shaw Center provided her with a warm and peaceful environment when she needed it the most. The staff felt like friends to her, and she genuinely looked forward to seeing them during her appointments, despite the circumstances. It was a place of love and hope and compassion. Shaw Center was part of my mom’s final chapter, and the nurses, doctors and staff will always have a special place in my heart.”
More information on Team Kris can be found at http://www.pinkvail.com/team-kris.
For Gretchen Babcock, who was previously a Pink Vail volunteer and now participates as a team captain for the Rebel Yells, the services provided by Shaw Cancer Center and the Spirit of Survival program have personal significance. Gretchen’s husband, Judd, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in 2009 and passed away in 2015.
Born and raised in Richmond, Virgina, Judd had a rebellious nature, Gretchen explained, and named all of his sailboats “Rebel Yell,” a favorite bourbon.
“It really speaks to Judd’s spirit,” Gretchen said of the team name. “Everybody knew he was a lot of personality and wanted to lead the charge of doing something different.”
This will be the team’s fifth year participating in Pink Vail. The Rebel Yells is usually comprised of around 50 to 70 people and they have raised a total of over $100,000 for patients at Shaw Cancer Center over the years.
Read more about Rebel Yell at http://www.pinkvail.com/rebel-yells.
Heidi Ham was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She received treatment at Shaw Cancer Center and participated in the Spirit of Survival program. Fast-forward to 2019, and Ham is a few months away from her seven-year mark as a cancer survivor. She participates in Pink Vail on a team with her namesake, Win4Heidi.
“Our team name represents two things we are extremely passionate about — football and cancer,” her sister, Debbie, explains. “We have 11 games left in our mission to see the Pats play every team away.”
As big fans of the New England Patriots, Debbie says that of all the games she and Ham have attended together across the country, a 2013 Jets-Pats game in New Jersey was specifically memorable.
“This game was incredibly special as it was her first time attending an October Breast Cancer Awareness game as a survivor,” Debbie said. “It was an emotional experience for both of us.”
Prior to the game, Debbie had a dream that she contacted the Patriots and told them Ham’s story.
“I wrote this drama-filled letter asking if they could just play a little harder and want the win just a little more than usual. If they could just do that and win for Heidi, I’d be forever grateful,” she said.
In her dream, they arrived at the stadium to see the Patriots wearing pink lettering on their helmets that said “Win4Heidi.”
“In real life we lost the game,” she added, “but we ended up with a team name for Pink Vail!”
She continues, “We hope that in the game of cancer versus Heidi, we’ll always be able to call it a Win4Heidi.”
Find more about Win4Heidi at http://www.pinkvail.com/win4heidi .
Pink Vail is Saturday, March 16, at Golden Peak in Vail. “Every Cancer, Every Color” reminds participants and donors that Pink Vail celebrates everyone who has fought a battle with cancer, and the funds benefit patients with all types of the disease. With all-day live music, a costume contest, deck-to-deck ski challenge and Kids Zone, Pink Vail is a special day on the mountain that benefits cancer patients all year round.
Now in its 8th year, Pink Vail has raised over $4 million to benefit patient care and survivorship programming at Shaw Cancer Center. Last year, nearly 2,500 participants attended, raising a record $920,000.
To register or make a donation, visit http://www.pinkvail.com.
Come get spooked at the Avon Public Library this Wednesday as Kathy Heicher of the Eagle County Historical Society talks about our area’s haunted history