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Husband keeps wife’s legacy alive

Jamie Kujawa
Vail Trail file photoSandy Treat with his late wife, Barbara.
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In her 22 years in the valley, Barbara Treat was involved in countless volunteer organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Literacy Project, and sat on as many as eight boards at one time. Her husband, Sandy, remembers that she “never accepted a dime for any activity while she was here.”

Barbara died of stomach cancer almost a year ago – on Jan. 7 of this year. A few months before Barbara’s death, Sandy asked her how she wanted to be remembered. Because most of her volunteer work was designed to help children in one way or another, she wanted to continue to help unfortunate children even after she passed away. Shortly after her death, Sandy founded the Barbara Treat Foundation. With much support from the VVF, the Foundation made its first donation to the Foundation of Family Learning Center in Edwards, offering scholarship money for children who may need help funding a college education. Sandy and Barbara had both been directors of the Center at one time.

“Her efforts are alive and well in the valley,” says Cheri Paller, executive director of the Foundation of the Family Learning Center. This was the first year that the Center had to host their annual golf tournament without its founder, Barbara. “We’re trying to continue to do the things the way that she taught us how to do them,” Paller says, “she had a special way of doing things.”

Barbara Treat was raised in an orphanage in a small town outside of Toronto. She and the other orphanage children were physically abused by its drunken owner, Sandy says. She ran away to Toronto when she was 16 with no more than a cloth coat, donated shoes, and a coat full of newspapers to keep her warm in mid-winter. Upon her arrival in Toronto, she began knocking on doors in search of work until a family finally took her in. She began doing administrative work for the summer camp, which the family ran. This is where she, and others, recognized her organizational skills.

After moving to Vancouver, she went on to become the national sales manager for the Westin Hotel chain and worked there for 14 years.

When Barbara and her husband, Sandy Treat, married, they decided to retire to Vail because they had enjoyed previous ski vacations in the valley. Sandy, being an avid skier and former racer, wrote a letter to the mayor at the time asking how he could become involved in ski racing at Vail when they arrived in the valley. Both Sandy and Barbara were looking to get involved, and they devoted their time to developing the Vail Valley Foundation. The VVF was the “real focal point of her many faceted activities” as a volunteer, Sandy says. She spent several days on those events, which included various ski competition and the World Forum. Barbara, an avid golfer, also started up the Vail Valley Junior Golf Association, which gets local kids involved in golf, Sandy says. He now runs the Association in conjunction with the Youth Foundation. It has been a “very nice success,” he says.

Despite her childhood, Barbara did not allow children to feel sorry for themselves, remembers Tsu Wolin-Brown, director of the Vail chapter of the Salvation Army.

“She was my hero, she was so down-to-earth,” says Wolin-Brown, who first met Barbara about 20 years ago while volunteering for the shelter for domestic violence victims. “Barbara had an infusion of fundraising power; she left a legacy. She really inspired people to do different things and was really able to make her mark on this town.”

As a member of the Rotary Club of Vail, Sandy was responsible for recruiting bell-ringers for the Salvation Army. His wife was his first and best recruit. She was the best for two reasons, he says, because she knew everyone, and she knew how to get the most amount of money out of them. Where most bell-ringers may have brought in $150, Barbara would bring in $500 or more, Sandy says. She would invite friends’ children to stand with her so that even if anyone wanted to refuse Barbara money, they surely wouldn’t refuse money to a child. “She could relate to anybody because of her background,” he says.

Barbara was twice voted Volunteer of the Year by the VVF, as well as Citizen of the Year by the Rotary Club. “She had a wonderful time while she was alive. She loved Vail and the wonderful giving part of the community,” Sandy says.

Rotary Club of Vail President Bill Wilto agreed that Barbara “was so good at focusing on getting the job done.” He has “tremendous respect and admiration for her and is thankful to have the opportunity to know her.” Wilto primarily knew of Barbara through Sandy’s involvement in the Rotary and recalls that she was at every fundraiser event in the valley. Wilto says that Barbara was a “great support person for Sandy.” After Sandy’s first wife and the mother of his children also died of cancer, Barbara became mentor to his children and grandchildren, writing letters to them and hand picking Christmas gifts for each and every one of them. She was Godmother to five of her friends’ children in Ontario. “Friends respected her in regards to their children,” Sandy says.

Barbara Treat will not soon be forgotten.


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