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Vail Daily letter: Overdue thanks to Vail Valley community

Mike Christenberry
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

This letter is a small example of the incredible gratitude I feel today.

Two years ago to the day, a beautiful event took place. It was a fundraising event for me. I have had two years to accumulate my sentiments in words.

I’m sorry it has taken so long. The journey has offered many lessons along the way.



I was battling stage 4 colon cancer. A unique chemotherapy treatment was available at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York. This would mean traveling to and from New York on a very regular basis-at one point, living there for a month and a half.

The challenges for me were pretty well defined. The challenges for my wife, Sara, and our children, Max and Grace, seemed infinite.



A fundraising event’s sole purpose is to raise money, but there are other residual benefits. During that wonderful March evening in 2008, awareness was raised, spirits were raised. That evening my hopes were raised.

Although the purpose was to help us financially in a desperate time, the true gifts of community, compassion, generosity, support, community and unity — to name just a few — will fill our hearts for a lifetime. To that community energy and consciousness, I say thank you.

An event could not take place without a venue. My former employers, The Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, never hesitated in donating endless services, the ballroom, even the bartenders’ tips were gathered at the end of the night and pressed into my hand. A tear comes to my eye just thinking of it. To the entire resort community, thank you.



The Vail Valley Charitable Foundation spearheaded the event from an organizational end: where to advertise, silent auction logistics, organizing activities at the event (the kids area removed a huge stress from parents who attended with their families). All of the myriad details interwoven in an event like this were handled seamlessly by Karen Simon and her fantastic team at the VVCF! A huge thank you to all of you.

The kids’ area was the brainchild of a dear friend, Kate Sheldon-Mairose. Her Mad Hatter’s hat-making station and face painters engaged kids of all ages. Parents could stroll through the silent auction area knowing their children were being well-supervised and having a great time. This is especially important to me since my own children were in attendance and are at the center of my life. Thank you, Kate!

My wife, Sara, is also at the center of my life. What a special person it takes to shoulder the burdens that accompany these adversities. Sara flew back and forth to New York to be with both me and our children. Our kids’ steadfast courage was a perfect reflection of her resolve to support and help heal me in any and every way known to man (and woman). Her contribution to the fundraiser was enormous, squeezing in more and more into an already hectic life. To this day, our lives have shifted and transformed together to maximize our health and maximize our happiness in every moment we share with on another.

Gratitude pours from me when I think of you, Sara. I thank you with every breath and love you more than all the stars.

Some of our dearest friends also contributed like family. This alone is a beautiful reflection of their caring and compassion. Tisch Plavec, Devon Jones, Laina Eskin, Kristin Rubis and especially Robye Nothnagel donated time, effort above and beyond, rearranged their family schedules and fought for me with as much love and determination as if they were family.

The Mountain Montessori School (where my daughter, Grace was attending), run by Martha Teien and Jill Chalfont, went way out of their way to help my family. Play dates were arranged weeks out. Dinners were brought by almost every night.

The Edwards Elementary School PTA (where our son, Max, attends) filled in the gaps helping with meals, shopping and child care. This reduced the stress in our lives at a time when stress was running deep. To the staff and families of the school community, thank you.

Our neighbors also came to the call daily through a winter filled with snowstorms. They shoveled our driveway, kept our kids entertained and were always quick with a word of support and encouragement. You have made our home feel a lot bigger than its boundaries. Thank you all.

It has been two years since the night of the fundraiser. Although I have thanked a lot of you along the way, now that I’m in remission, the feelings resonate more, mean more to me. This mass thank you is overdue, but it comes with two years’ less stress, anxiety and worry. It comes with two more years of compassion, connection and appreciation for all of you in this wonderful place.

I will conclude this by saying that I hope I have not left anyone out! The entire Vail Valley (and beyond) should feel my love and genuine gratitude from the bottom of my heart. You have all contributed greatly to my ability to live a greater, more vital and more wonderful life.

Mike Christenberry


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