Betty Ford Alpine Gardens near fundraising goal | VailDaily.com

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens near fundraising goal

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VAIL — Much like the woman herself, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens have always represented the community strength and generous spirit of the Vail Valley. Now, with the help of Sheika Gramshammer, one of the former first lady's closest friends, that legacy will live on for generations to come.

One year ago, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens began the arduous journey of raising almost $4 million to construct the final piece of the gardens — a state-of-the-art education center.

With $500,000 left to raise and construction completed, Gramshammer spoke about the process of fundraising and the true meaning behind this significant accomplishment.

"This building will bring the whole area, the whole Betty Ford Gardens to life," Gramshammer said. "It's not only important to the future of the gardens, it's important to the future generations from all over the country who come to visit the garden."

The center creates an ecologically-sound place for the staff to manage the gardens, preserve and study the fragile alpine flora and ultimately disseminate their knowledge to visitors of all ages. Educational opportunities, hands-on experiences, volunteer internships for high school students and resource materials will be accessible year-round.

As one of the top botanical gardens in the world, the addition of the education center also allows the gardens to better promote themselves and open their doors to hundreds, if not thousands of more visitors each year.

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The education center held its grand opening ceremony on July 29.

"This is something very important not just for Vail but the entire valley," Gramshammer said. "It is so very important that we educate our children for the future, and you can educate people with the flowers. If you know how to treat flowers, you know how to treat people."

As a trailblazing activist for women's rights, breast cancer and substance abuse, Betty Ford was a strong yet caring woman with an innovative mind. The education center seeks to embody these qualities as it attempts to etch them into the mind of all who enter.

"It is to keep her memory alive," Gramshammer said. "To keep her legacy alive. This will bring out what she stood for."

These generous and caring qualities are exactly what Gramshammer has been looking for from friends within the Vail Valley, as well as Betty Ford Alpine Gardens supporters around the country and the world.

"We have enough people in this community who could support us for the next $500,000," Gramshammer said. "And we could say, 'We did it, Betty,' and it was just thanks to the friends of Vail, thanks to the believers in you."

"I hope, before the fall comes, we have the rest of the $500,000. That would be a great tribute to Betty and wonderful gift to this community."