“This one is for you sweetie,” read the sign on Lisa Efraimson’s backpack as she climbed 8.5 miles to Vail Pass on her bike.
Another sign attached to another biker said, “Eef – every stroke, every deep breath for you.”
After battling lung cancer for eight months, Jon Efraimson, also known as “Eef”, a 15-year resident of the valley, died on Feb. 18 at age 36.
Lisa Efraimson and about 75 other people participated Saturday
in the second annual Jon Efraimson Climb Every Mountain Benefit, a fund raiser for the Jon Efraimson Cancer Fund.
“This was one of his wishes,” Lisa Efraimson said at the top of the pass. “That people would get help.”
Once at the top of the pass, Lisa Efraimson opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
“I really appreciate you coming today,” she told them. “We’ll have a toast for Eef and everybody who’s come here today.”
Later in the day, the riders and walkers met again at a post party at Talon’s Deck at Eagle’s Nest at the top of Vail Mountain.
Saying goodbye to Jon
Jon Efraimson was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2002, less than a month after he and Lisa were married. He was the founder of EEF Productions with friend Hayden Scott.
“His cancer started as lung cancer but then spread to the liver,” Lisa Efraimson said. “But he was always very positive. He never once was down on himself.”
Jon Efraimson, his wife said, enjoyed climbing up hills and mountains, skiing, golfing and biking.
Last year, a month after surgery and while he was undergoing chemotherapy, Jon Efraimson rode up to Vail Pass with other 30 people on the first annual Jon Efraimson Climb Every Mountain Benefit. A picture of Jon smiling after that ride was also attached to Lisa Efraimson’s backpack while she rode up the pass.
“He had a very aggressive form of cancer, but Jon continued to live life as he liked, skiing and working. In December, he skied off Lover’s Leap in Blue Sky Basin with Meggen,” she said, referring to Meggen Bernstein, one of the organizers of Saturday’s ride.
After he got sick, one of Jon’s dreams was to set up a fund for cancer patients at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, which serves a seven-county area.
“There are 24 patients who are going through cancer treatment at the center and don’t have insurance,” said Suzanne Sloan, senior director of development for the Vail Valley Medical Center. “The cost of cancer treatment can start in the five-figure area and can go to the six-figure area.”
The cancer fund was set up by Lisa Efraimson, Bill Sutphen, Margie Plath, the Vail Valley Medical Center Foundation and the Shaw Cancer Center. The money raised will be used for financial and emotional support to cancer patients and their families. Sloan said the fund is of critical importance.
“It will help a lot of patients to complete their treatments,” she said.
Putting on a smile for Jon
To celebrate Jon’s love for life, the event T-shirt had an inscription that said, “Get up every day and put on a smile.”
“I did the ride because Jon was a great friend of ours,” said Markus Galehr, of Avon, the first one to reach the summit – in 50 minutes. “He was a nice, honest guy, who did a lot of things for the community. Even at the end, he was outgoing and wanted to enjoy as much of of the day. He was always there for his friends.”
It took Heidi Kercher-Pratt and Amy Manley two hours to walk to the top.
“We absolutely love Eef and we support the cause,” Kercher-Pratt said.
Manley said the event was a celebration of Eef.
“Jon would be with us today,” she said. “We miss him a lot.”
Jon’s sister, Carla Sutherland talked about the fundraiser with tears in her eyes.
“It makes me cry to see how everybody remembers him and I miss him,” she said.
“I was the oldest sister, he was a fun brother who did a good job of torturing his older sisters,” she added with a sad smile. “I hope the event gets bigger every year.”
Lisa Efraimson said she plans to have the fundraiser every year, but doesn’t want it to be competitive.
“We want to do it so that cancer patients can come, too,” she said. “Since Jon died, things have been difficult for me, but I haven’t stopped doing stuff he wanted me to do. It actually has motivated me to help other people.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at email@example.com.
At a glance
To make a donation to the Jon Efraimson Cancer Fund, contact the Vail Valley Medical Center at 970-569-7492.