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Cards raise cash for stem cell treatment in Aspen

Joel Stonington
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen TimesBob Dalessio of Aspen checks his hand before betting Sunday during a poker tournament meant to raise money for three Aspen-area women seeking stem cell treatment in India.
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ASPEN, Colorado ” The dining room of Jimmy’s Restaurant was packed Sunday afternoon with folks playing poker. It was the first of two events designed to raise money for three women with spinal injuries seeking expensive stem cell treatment.

One of those women is Carbondale native Kasie Burtard, who was paralyzed from just above her navel down in a 2002 car accident.

“Being 25, you don’t want to be in a wheelchair for your whole life,” she said.



Burtard played poker with a crowd of charitable high rollers and the other two women ” Challenge Aspen co-founder Amanda Boxtel and Leah Roland ” who also are seeking stem cell treatment in India,

There was no buy-in, but organizers said poker players averaged $200 in donations per person. The winner will get a donated $10,000 spot in the World Series of Poker, and the members of the winning table will share in some of the top players winnings.



Boxtel already has been to India for a treatment by Dr. Geeta Shroff, who uses an embryonic stem cell therapy to treat people with incurable diseases or people with injuries deemed irreversible. The cost of a two-month treatment in India is about $40,000.

Boxtel has said that treatments at the 20-room private facility run by Shroff include morning and afternoon injections and intensive physical therapy. But her two months in India in summer 2007 bore fruit, she said, and she’s gained some feeling and movement in her legs.

Financial needs are different for the three women, who already have held some fundraisers. Aspen Club CEO Michael Fox said he’s hoping the poker tournament and upcoming event will help out the three women.



“Hopefully we can start a tradition in the valley of sending people to India,” Fox said.


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