Vail Valley Scenery column: A Grateful Harvest celebrates 10 years of caring for children | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Scenery column: A Grateful Harvest celebrates 10 years of caring for children

Carolyn Pope
Vail Valley Scenery

The most treasured friendships are those that share the same journey. For a parent, however, the journey of illness is one they would rather their children never share.

But when the illness is life threatening, there’s a little slice of heaven not far off exit 133 on Interstate 70, where a sick kid can be just a kid and raise a little hell.

Roundup River Ranch is celebrating 10 years from the day when Alison Knapp was approached by David Horvitz and John Forester, both members of the Hole in the Wall Board of Directors, the camps founded by actor Paul Newman. A bit of arm-twisting ensued, but Knapp was hooked by the dream of sharing the Rocky Mountains with children who were sick — really sick.

In 2006, Executive Director Ruth Johnson came aboard and the camp was founded. During the recession, they launched a capital campaign with a dynamic group of women and men who shared the dream, including founders Kathy Cole, Karin Weber, Jeri and Charlie Campisi, Kathy Ferguson, Suzanne Scharf, Beth Slifer, John Gates, Steve Pope and more. Dr. Lia Gore came on board from Children’s Hospital, and Denny Sanford offered a $7,00,000 challenge grant to help the organization open the doors.

The camp welcomed its first campers in 2011, and since then, 4,000 children have laughed, played, climbed, sung and, for one week, were just kids at camp. Being sick wasn’t the first thing they thought of every morning when they woke. In 2015, 28 children came from the Vail Valley. It’s hard to believe that in our little community we have children who are going through severe illnesses on a daily basis.

“Creating this camp would take a village of advocates, some of whom we would never know, but they were sharing our campers’ stories for us,” Johnson said. “Our work is not done, as we strive to maintain excellence and ensure long-term financial sustainability that will allow us to always dream big.”

At A Grateful Harvest, Chefs Kelly Liken of Harvest, Riley Romanin from Hooked and Paul Ferzacca of La Tour brought in their staff to spoil the guests with a delectable dinner, paired with exceptional wines. White Wave, which represents foods that include Silk, Horizon and Earthbound Farms, was the presenting sponsor. The auction was impressive: tickets to “Hamilton” in New York City with a meet-and-greet with the cast, which sold for $18,000; a Bali private getaway sold for $20,000; and VIP Grammy tickets, just to name a few.

Donations were generous, and with many campers from the stage cheering the bidders on, two donors raised their paddles to the tune of $50,000 each, but no one was left out, as each guest had the opportunity to give what they were able.

“Every day, there are kids who say ‘I can’t believe how great camp is,’” said Gore, chairman of the board of Roundup River Ranch. “We have problems getting them back on the bus to go home. At the hospital, we treat the body and illness. At camp, we treat the soul.”

At Roundup River Ranch, though, it’s all about serious fun, and in the end, she summarized, nothing is worth more than today.

For more information on Roundup River Ranch, its programs and volunteer and donor opportunities, visit http://www.roundupriverranch.org or call 970-748-9983.

Carolyn Pope has covered community service events and nonprofit activities since 2001 and co-authored “The Women of Vail.” She can be reached at 970-390-9913.