Campbell Sullivan, remembered for resilience to rare form of cancer, dies at 19
Special to the Daily
After a four year battle with CIC-DUX4 sarcoma, Campbell Barrett Sullivan died Monday, Feb. 22, after suffering a brain hemorrhage brought on by the rare form of cancer. She was 19.
A Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy alumnae, Campbell created a nonprofit for other children with sarcomas, became an advocate for children’s cancer, marched on Washington, D.C. in support of funding for children’s cancer, was named an ambassador for St. Baldrick’s Foundation and never once lost her megawatt smile as she encouraged others.
An avid ski racer, Campbell kept her passion for the sport thriving in herself and with her teammates. When she was too ill to race or train, she became a coach. When that proved beyond her capabilities, she went to the races to cheer for her teammates. When she couldn’t walk to the races, she was in her wheelchair.
Lindsey “Gibby” Sullivan, Campbell’s mother, said during Campbell’s fight with cancer, there were days when her daughter would open her eyes only to give a clear and passionate interview before falling asleep exhausted as soon as she was off the video call.
“One thing she would want me to tell you is that cancer is not a win or lose battle, and that is because no child chooses this fight,” said Gibby Sullivan. “It’s not a competition, and so you can’t lose to cancer.”
Ski racing superstar Lindsey Vonn got to know Campbell, calling her fellow Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alumnae a “light of hope that lifted and touched anyone that met her.”
“We share our deepest condolences with the Sullivan family,” Vonn said. “She radiated strength, compassion, and had the most wonderfully positive outlook on life. Her presence will be missed but her spirit will not be forgotten. It was a privilege getting to know Campbell, hearing her story, and being able to contribute to her skiing career. Although, it was Campbell that gave the most to us. The Lindsey Vonn Foundation and our staff are sending the warmest hug to her family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
A real life superhero
Originally from Philadelphia, Campbell learned a love of skiing from Gibby, who taught all her children to ski in their home state.
The family moved to Denver, but Campbell was determined to attend Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy and moved in with Gibby’s father, J. Bradley Gibson, in Eagle for the 2014-15 ski season. One morning, prior to driving Campbell to school, Gibson suffered a pulmonary embolism and passed away.
“We talked about Campbell coming back to Highlands Ranch to live with us and she chose to move to Leadville to live with one of Kevin’s best friends and business partners, Jennifer and Bill Allen,” Gibby said. “She lived with them for most of her freshman year.”
Campbell also lived off and on for three months with the McMurtry family in Eagle. Campbell and the McMurtry twins — Jenevieve and Jordan — were constantly doing fun things together, said the twins’ mom, Jeanette McMurtry.
“When homework got too much, Campbell would turn the McMurtry’s living room in a “disco area” and the girls would dance their stress away,” McMurtry said.
Campbell’s family later followed her and relocated to Eagle.
“She was always willing to do anything to make skiing happen and after what happened with my dad, who she adored, she knew she could get through anything that life threw at her,” Gibby said.
McMurtry echoed those thoughts.
“She knew at a young age what she wanted out of life and how to work to get it,” she said.
When Campbell was first diagnosed, in 2017, the McMurtry girls volunteered to make neck gators for sale to help offset Campbell’s medical expenses. She picked the pattern, Marvel Cartoon characters.
“She was a real life superhero,” McMurtry said. “Superheroes in stories are stories are ordinary but when it comes to save the world from an invader, they rise above and made the world a better place. Normal person on the outside, how extraordinary for someone who was diagnosed with a deadly cancer had a goal to help other children with cancer. She became a superhero without even realizing it.”
At the 2019 Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy graduation ceremony, Caroline Jones and Sofia Grewal — in their reflection speech — mentioned all of their classmates and then said, “And of course Campbell. The strongest of us all, beating cancer while skiing as much as she could and supporting the team every step of the way. She was the shining star of our class and the one person who never failed to put a smile on someone’s face.”
In an Instagram tribute, Campbell’s friend Gabi Holm said she was a superhero in everyone’s eyes.
“You have taught us all how to stay positive, be strong and smile wide,” Holm wrote.
SSCV Director of Advancement Sharon Schmidt said Campbell was well beyond her years in “refocusing her energy from herself to the greater good for all of the young cancer patients who came before and will come after her.”
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alumnae Skylar Adelman met Campbell during her first year at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, when they were both under-14 age division ski racers.
Adelman said their friendship solidified when they were on a chairlift in Loveland as under-16 age division racers and were upset about the level of the group in which they were assigned, as they believed they were put in a lower level ski group.
“We were both angry and decided we were going to prove that we could ski just as fast as the other girls and we did,” Adelman said. “Everyday we pushed each other to become better. Campbell has always been my biggest motivator.”
The duo achieved their goal when they attended the USSA U16 Nationals in Sugarbush, Vermont, in 2017. Motivating others to return to their favorite activities pre-cancerous sarcomas became the goal of Campbell’s nonprofit SkiFast Foundation.
On December 9, 2019, more than a year after her original cancer diagnosis, Campbell completed her first FIS race, a giant slalom. At the end of her run, teammates greeted her with champagne, posters, cheers and tears of joy. Her final race was a giant slalom in Beaver Creek in March 2020.
On Wednesday afternoon those teammates, some still racing, others retired, will ski down Golden Peak wearing gold in her honor.
SkiFast Foundation fundraiser is Saturday
On Saturday, Feb. 27, The Grand Hyatt Vail will be hosting a fundraiser for Campbell Sullivan’s SkiFast Foundation from 3 to 9 p.m. outside at Cascade Village. There will be complimentary ice skating in Cascade Village Square, silent auction items and private yurt reservations. Parking for this event will also be complimentary.
Addie Sullivan, Campbell’s youngest sister, approached the Hyatt at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year to see if they would consider hosting a fundraiser. “Grand Gestures” was created with SkiFast Foundation being the first recipient.
Campbell founded the organization in 2020 while undergoing stem cell treatment for CIC-DUX4 sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. The foundation’s goal is to assist and support pediatric cancer patients (18 and younger) with sarcoma cancers by helping them return to the activities they love.
“Our team was inspired to create the Grand Gestures charitable initiative in lieu of being able to host a holiday fundraising event to support Ski Fast Foundation due to COVID-19,” said Dan Johnson, the Grand Hyatt Vail’s general manager. “Despite the challenges presented to forego a grand scale event, creativity and a passion to contribute to causes meaningful to us led the team here, and we are proud and honored to help support these worthy endeavors.”
“We know that many of our local charities haven’t been able to fundraise in their traditional ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to partner with them to help raise funds to support our community,” added Ashley Okamura, Director of Events for Grand Hyatt Vail, who is a Vail native.
A percentage of proceeds from all food and beverage sales in the resort’s signature restaurant Gessner, Fireside Lounge, The Market and the al fresco Cascade Village Square including Gore Creek Kitchen, Bonfire + Ice Bar will go to the SkiFast Foundation as well as a percentage of proceeds from local pop-up shops participating in the fundraiser.
To reserve an ice skating spot, follow this link: https://skifast.app.rsvpify.com
For those who cannot attend but would like to donate, donations can be made via PayPal through: https://skifastfoundation.com or mailed to SkiFast Foundation C/O Bill Allen, 2224 Green Rush Place, Colorado Springs, CO 80919