Vail Daily column: Financial aid helps dreams come true | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Financial aid helps dreams come true

Aldo Radamus
Perspectives

One of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's key initiatives during my time with the organization has been providing opportunities for children to fulfill their snowsports dreams regardless of financial means. In the past nine years, more than $1.3 million in financial aid has been awarded to Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes. In the current season, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail will award over $230,000 in financial aid to more than 120 youngsters covering up to 75 percent of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail program fees, more than a tenfold increase in financial aid from the $20,000 awarded annually in the recent past. Philanthropy pays a huge role in making this assistance possible.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's financial aid initiative has great meaning to our athletes, as reflected in the words of some of the recipients below.

• "Thank you so much for the scholarship money. I promise to always try my hardest and never take advantage of it. I am so grateful for your donation to help out with my ski racing."

• "I am grateful for this wonderful gift. I am happy to have this great opportunity to pursue my dreams of being a pro snowboarder. Without your help I may not have had this chance. I can't wait to prove that your kind donation was well spent."

• "It's strengthening to know that you are behind me as I work hard to achieve my ski goals."

• "To be able to ski for an incredible program in Ski & Snowboard Club Vail means the world to me! I look forward to it every day."

Recommended Stories For You

'Kids supporting kids'

Athlete driven fundraisers such as raffle sales, downhill dash and the vertical challenge are an important funding mechanism for financial aid. This year, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes are engaged in raising financial aid funds for their teammates with the Inspires Challenge — Kids Supporting Kids. This fundraiser furthers our athletes' understanding of and appreciation for the importance of community involvement in making financial aid available.

Participation in Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's Inspires Challenge is easy and fun. Athletes are asked to document their most inspirational moment at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail in writing or by video. The athlete then creates their own web page where they can share their inspirational moment with friends and family while seeking online donations. Prizes are awarded to those who reach $100 in donations as well as the highest fundraisers and the video contest winners per age group.

Special recognition goes out to Dominick Epifanio, Finn Moran Rey and Hunter Roach, whose 2015 Inspiration Challenge videos received the most "likes" of all Ski & Snowboard Club Vail participants last season!

HELP FROM FOUNDATIONS

In addition to fundraisers like the Inspires Challenge and the donations from sponsors and individuals that provide much needed financial aid funds to Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes, direct athlete support is provided by local foundations for travel, competitions and camps.

Many thanks go out to The Les Streeter Foundation for its more than 20 years of support in helping to fund summer snowsports camp opportunities for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is also grateful for the support of the Vail Snowsports Foundation and Team America Foundation. Set up to support Alpine ski racing, these foundations provide financial aid to help support the costs of special projects, camps and other opportunities for exposure to pace that promising young ski racers qualify to participate in as a result of great performances. These initiatives often fall outside of the normal pipeline of activities that families budget for, making this support even more critical.

Finally, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's newly formed Opportunity Fund is designed to support diversity, high potential athletes and extraordinary financial need across all of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's sports of freestyle, freeskiing, Nordic, snowboard and alpine.

The overarching goal for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's financial aid is to ensure that any child in the Vail Valley is able to pursue their snow sports dreams by joining Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's programs and that advancement in the sport is not limited by means.

C3 Athlete Award

Congratulations go out to January's C3 Athlete Award winner Tad Elliott and C3 Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Staff Award winner Johnny Kemp. We are also very proud of Gabi Holm, Katie Collins, Kaitlyn Harsch, Spencer Peterson and Ian Kalapos for being nominated for the January C3 Athlete Award!

Tad Elliott is a 27-year-old Nordic skier from Durango, who has been skiing for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail since 2011. In his time as a Nordic athlete Tad has won four national championships and he is also an accomplished mountain biker. Tad was unable to race for the past two years due to a mononucleosis infection and complications from Epstein Barr virus.

After the 2013 ski season, Tad was not invited to rejoin the US Cross Country Ski Team, but remained determined to achieve his goal of making the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Team. At some point during this training, Tad contracted Epstein-Barr virus. He was misdiagnosed and given the green light to return to his high training loads before he was physically ready. He became so sick that he was unable to leave the house.

In 2015, doctors finally diagnosed Tad with mononucleosis, an infectious viral disease caused by Epstein-Barr and he spent the next six months recovering. Tad fought his way back to health and fitness after a two year hiatus, winning his fourth National Championship on Jan. 7 in a 30-kilometer mass start skate race.

Johnny Kemp is an Ski & Snowboard Club Vail U16 Alpine Coach who re-joined the organization in 2011 as a coach after having been a member of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's FIS program as a high level junior athlete. He has worked hard and taken every opportunity to further educate himself as a coach. He goes above and beyond, unselfishly willing to help with extra projects and always getting the job done while mentoring fellow coaches along the way.

Recently, Johnny found himself on the front line of two serious athlete injuries. In both cases, he conducted himself professionally, handling the athlete with compassion while following through with the necessary aid as the first responder.

There is nothing more rewarding than watching Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and its supporters create opportunities "for the kids," inspiring character growth and excellence along the way. Many thanks go out to all involved for the many ways they support Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's kids.

Aldo Radamus is the executive director of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. For more information, go to http://www.skiclubvail.org, email sschmidt@skiclubvail.org or call 970-790-5161.