Thirty years of dancing in Vail |

Thirty years of dancing in Vail

Daily staff report
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado – On Dec. 28, 1980 Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC) held its first Family Dinner Dance to raise money for the growing hospital in a growing community. It was also an opportunity to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. The idea was that of Gordon Brittan, the first chairman of VVMC’s board of directors. Gordon and his wife Thelma, whose birthday was Dec. 28, hosted the event at The Westin, now the Vail Cascade. Roughly 200 people attended and the event raised $13,000. This year the Family Dinner Dance, in its 30th year, will consist of 550 attendees (the event is already sold out) with a goal of raising $350,000.

Each year VVMC hosts the Family Dinner Dance on Dec. 28, Thelma’s birthday. Thelma and Gordon believed that helping the hospital grow and evolve not only helped the community, its residents and its guests, but also that it was essential to making Vail the world-class destination that it is today.

Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of Gordon and Thelma’s idea. The hospital continues to grow and expand, making Vail a safe place for people to live and vacation.

“The spirit of giving and coming together to make VVMC the best it can be continues today, 30 years later,” said Doris Kirchner, VVMC’s president and CEO. “Our hospital and community continue to grow together. This growth demands that we bring improved, more technologically advanced medical services to Eagle County.

“The Family Dinner Dance is a tradition that our supporters look forward to every year,” she continued. “It’s an opportunity to get together with family and friends for a great evening of fun and philanthropy.”

In 2009, the $275,000 raised at the Family Dinner Dance went towards the reconfiguration of VVMC’s emergency department (E.D.). The department’s reconfiguration continues to be the goal for funds raised at the 2010 Family Dinner Dance. As a not-for-profit hospital, Vail Valley Medical Center reinvests its net revenue back into the community, improving facilities, health care services and programs that meet the needs of Eagle County residents.

For many people, VVMC’s emergency department is the front door to their hospital experience, serving injuries and illnesses alike. As the community grows as a home and vacation destination for more and more people, the strain on the E.D.’s limited footprint also increases.

“In the 1980s we would see roughly 3,500 patients a year in the E.D.,” said Dr. Larry Brooks, president of Vail Valley Emergency Physicians. “Our volume has increased steadily over the years. Now we can see as many as 15,000 patients in here each year.”

Brooks points out that as more technology in imaging and emergency medicine became the norm the E.D. needs to house more equipment, which consumes patient treatment space. Additionally, changing healthcare regulations surrounding patient privacy have made the old configuration out of date.

“We have an amazing staff in our E.D., but the facility’s inefficiencies make their jobs and our capacity to treat patients more difficult,” Brooks said. “It’s time for our E.D. to be reconfigured. The generous donations of VVMC’s supporters will make this possible.”

The work of fundraising would not be possible without the generous donations of the community. Monetary donations and auction items are essential to the Family Dinner Dance’s success. This year’s live auction items include, among others, a hut trip provided by Drs. Patti and Gordon Hardenbergh that is catered by Larkspur Restaurant and Beaver Liquors; a rare 17-inch strand of Keshi South Sea Pearls donated by Betteridge Jewelers; a one-week stay at the Cabo San Lucas home of Dr. and Mrs. Marc Philippon; a catered dinner by Kevin Nelson of Terra Bistro at the home of Doris Kirchner, president and CEO of VVMC and her husband John; and first light, first tracks skiing with Vail’s own Cindy Nelson, Dr. Jack Eck and Dr. Reg Franciose. For more information, visit

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