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Vail Alliance for Purposeful Living aims to foster community

Local group may be in its ‘perfect moment’

In an older photo, the late Pete Frechette, left, along with Raj Manickam and Bob Vanourek, participate in a Vail Leadership Institute session.
Vail Institute for Purposeful Living/courtesy photo

In its earliest days, the people who founded Vail had a clear purpose: economic survival. The Vail Alliance for Purposeful Living wants to help people today look for, and find, clear paths for themselves.

The Alliance was founded by a group that’s long sought to help develop leadership skills and provide focus to people’s lives.

The group is using some of the material developed by the now-defunct Vail Leadership Institute. That group was co-founded by longtime resident John Horan-Kates.



The new Alliance “is a redployment of assets that I and others developed in the Vail Leadership Institute days dating back to the 1990s,” Horan-Kates said.

After passingon the leadership of the previous group, which closed shop in late 2018, Horan-Kates said a couple of years ago he “got the word from above” to launch an effort similar to the old group.



Together with longtime associates Buck Elliott, long an owner of Paragon Guides, and Terry Minger, Vail’s first town manager, Horan-Kates started thinking about ways the old institute materials and philosophies could be used in a new way.

With the help of author Richard Leiter, the ideas started to gel. A Vail Symposium presentation by the author drew 300 participants via Zoom, which showed a strong interest in the topics.

The idea boils down to “What is your purpose in life?,” Horan-Kates said. The question goes beyond just work.

From all those questions and previous insights came the idea of both presentations and small-group “roundtable” sessions. The first of those roundtables, a year-long effort, kicked off this fall. Those small sessions consist of no more than eight people. Horan-Kates said a group of six is about ideal, with eight being almost too many.

Those sessions start with “tell me your story,” and the small group sizes mean people have to be fully engaged.

Among the offerings are weekend sessions.

“By the end of the weekend, we see real progress,” Horan-Kates said.

Vail Alliance for Purposeful Living co-founder John Horan-Kates, center, has long been focused on personal development and leadership for others.
Vail Alliance for Purposeful Living/Courtesy photo

Good timing

Minger said this is an ideal time to launch a project aimed at purposeful living.

“In some ways, there’s kind of an emergency taking place,” Minger said. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have deepened divisions in the nation, which was already divided politically.

After almost two years of “hiding under our sofas,” Minger said “This is a moment we need to be talking to each other.”

The year of lockdowns has put too many people on the sidelines of professional and social life, Minger said. That “human capital” needs to re-engage with the world.

Engaging with the world and creating community were the early goals of the Vail Symposium, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The group focused on the fledgling resort’s place in the world, and was fueled by a common love and passion for the place, Minger said.

Gregg Vanourek is a co-founder of the Alliance, and the son of parents who have long been active in the community.

Vanourek said starting the Alliance has been “a lot of fun,” but it’s also been challenging.

“We’re trying to meet the moment,” Vanourek said. “People are asking a lot of big questions about life and work… it feels energizing to be in that space.”

While those big questions are common today, Vanourek noted that big institutions aren’t much help. What the Alliance can do is provide ways to support people who are looking for meaning in their lives.

The questions about meaning and purpose may be most prevalent among those who are early on in their adult lives, but can also be relevant to empty-nesters and recent retirees, Vanourek said.

People in roundtable sessions can learn from both facilitators and their peers.

Bringing back joy

The Vail Alliance for Purposeful Living is still in its startup stage, but the founders are already thinking about what a broader presence in the world might look like.

“Part of our vision is to offer it far and wide,” Vanourek said. That could include digital presentations.

For now, though, “We want to become a good standing citizen in the Vail Valley,” Vanourek said.

Becoming a good citizen means involvement with other local groups. Vanourek said the Alliance wants to establish relationships with groups from the Vail Symposium to 4 Eagle Ranch. It means bringing in experts and faciiltators, and finding ways to offer programming to anyone who wants to participate.

“We want to serve wide swaths of need across the valley,” he said.

Vanourek said local growth will include partnerships with civic and community organizations, including health care.

“Purposeful living dovetails with health care: physical emotional and mental … there’s all kinds of opportunity,” Vanourek said.

There’s more than just deep thinking behind purposeful living.

“We’re trying to bring back some joy, fun and heart,” Vanourek said.

“It’s been a very dark year — there are a lot of people with Zoom fatigue… We want people to get back into nature and the world.”

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