Pink Vail raises more than $880,000 for Shaw Cancer Center | VailDaily.com

Pink Vail raises more than $880,000 for Shaw Cancer Center

Vail Mountain was pink and white on Saturday, March 24, as new snow greeted thousands of revelers celebrating the world's biggest ski day to conquer cancer.

The Shaw Cancer Center's seventh annual Pink Vail fundraiser brought in more than $880,000 this year.

Had the event been held one day earlier, it might not have went off so well, longtime Vail doctor Jack Eck said on Saturday.

"It would have been awful yesterday," Eck said with a laugh. "But now everyone's down here and it's like a beach party on snow."

There was not a cloud in the sky as Eck said the annual party, and the fact that it's a fundraiser that "doesn't involve any arm twisting," makes Pink Vail Saturday among his favorite days of the year.

"So many people benefit from it," he said.

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FREE ONCOLOGY REHAB

Eck is the namesake of Jack's Place, an Eagle County cancer caring house that provides posh services in a picturesque mountain setting.

Among the new benefits to those recovering from cancer at the Shaw Cancer Center and Jack's Place is a lifetime of oncology rehab, totally free, courtesy of funds raised at Pink Vail.

Exercise physiologist Sarah Giovagnoli said the free program is unlike any other in the U.S.

"It used to be, people would come in post chemo, and they'd have to pay $15 to exercise," Giovagnoli said. "Now they have a lifetime gym membership, they can come in and do reiki, acupuncture, massage, tai chi, yoga, pilates, we do 'skimotherapy' on the mountain, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hikes, hut trips, and if they want they can get a home exercise program set up, as well."

Giovagnoli said the reason the oncology rehab — which is not often covered by insurance — is most important to offer for free, is because "doctors know that exercise reduces recurrence."

'WHAT JUST HAPPENED?'

With ski trips as a part of her plan to stay active in recovery, cancer survivor Abby Pertzborn of Madison, Wisconsin, comes to Vail every spring.

Pertzborn was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34. She's now 38.

"We come out every year and we've been to a few Pink Vail's now," she said on Saturday. "We really planned this one."

Dressing as a mermaid with a pink survivor cape, Pertzborn won the best costume contest this year.

"I think it was the cape," she said.

Skiing with survivors is a special experience, Pertzborn said. She described her own experience with cancer as "a blur."

"You come out the other side of it and you're like 'what just happened?' she said. "And then you come to events like this, it's so fun to see everyone out supporting people who are going through a tough time."

LIFELONG FRIENDS

Eck said in addition to the added benefits the Pink Vail fundraising has provided, he has enjoyed watching Jack's Place evolve in ways he wasn't expecting.

"People are making friends there, and becoming their own support systems," Eck said. "And then they time their treatments by calling someone else from before so they're back together at the same time. That's an unintended consequence that's been really positive."

Shelly Wilcox, who has been to Jack's Place dozens of times in her fight with breast cancer, said she didn't expect the disease to bring to her a group of lifelong friends.

"There would be women in their 20s, and there would be people that would be 75, and we would sit there and play guitar and sing Beatles songs," she said. "Now we schedule our mammograms and our checkups together."

'INSPIRES EVERYONE'

Recognized every year as a celebration of pink attire and fundraising for cancer survivors, Pink Vail may have been best symbolized by Colleen Costin of Eagle-Vail. She solicited cash donations from generous guests of Vail throughout the day, stuffing the contributions into her oversized pink brazier.

Costin said she was participating on behalf of her friend Robyn Spethrie, from whom Costin has learned much about what it means to be a survivor.

"She's had 10 bouts of cancer," Costin said. "But she's raised an incredible amount of money as an individual participating in Pink Vail every year."

The most recent struggle with cancer for Spethrie is coming in the form of leukemia, stemming from the radiation treatment she received in her first bout of cancer.

"She's doing OK, but she's a little tired and couldn't raise as much this year," Costin said.

Nevertheless, Spethrie's name was announced among the top-10 fundraisers this year, where she finished seventh, raising $12,716.

"A group of eight of her friends came out from Kinnelon, New Jersey, just to be with her for this event," Costin said. "She inspires everyone around her."