Vail Valley Foundation names Jan Hiland its latest ‘Volunteer of the Year’
AVON — Jan Hiland, the Vail Valley Foundation’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year, is a somewhat reluctant recipient who has a very simple philosophy when it comes to volunteerism.
“I really feel there are other people who have been volunteering as much if not more than me for many years in the Vail Valley,” Hiland said. “Of course, I am extremely surprised and honored, but I kind of look at life as holes that need to be filled. You jump in and you fill the holes.”
Filling holes can include almost anything, and in a quarter century of Vail Valley volunteering, Hiland has done virtually everything — from chairing Wild West Days early on and raising tens of thousands of dollars for local elementary schools to helping open the middle school in Gypsum to running events for the Vail Valley Charitable Fund to helping found Eagle County for Human Rights to volunteering for the 1999 Alpine World Ski Championships, the Red Ribbon Project and Vail Resorts’ Epic Promise program.
Birds of Prey
Hiland will be honored for her work at a ceremony Sunday, Dec. 3, in between giant slalom runs at the Birds of Prey World Cup in Beaver Creek.
For Hiland, filling holes can also be much more than a mere metaphor — it can mean patching up the costumes of world-class dancers as the Wardrobe Mistress for the Vail Dance Festival and calming the nerves of never-ever dancers in the same role with the Vail Valley Foundation’s Star Dancing Gala fundraiser every year.
“We kind of fulfill that mom-support role backstage,” Hiland said. “We consider ourselves a M.A.S.H. unit — Mobile Alpine Sewing Hospital — because I’ll pick up shop at the Ford Amphitheater and we’ll go to the Vilar Performing Arts Center, we’ll go to the Avon park, and I’ve been doing it long enough that I now consider the crew and the dancers my friends. It’s like coming back to camp or college.”
Hiland, whose day job is as a senior administrator for Beaver Creek Mountain Operations (a role her daughter says earned her the title of “Queen Beav’”), is now an integral part of the Vail Valley Foundation Dance Festival team after those early volunteer days starting in 2001.
“She is without a doubt the No. 1 dance mom in the biz,” said Martha Brassel, director of development for the Vail Dance Festival. “The dancers trust her, she manages all the nips and tucks backstage and is the unofficial Dance Festival cheerleader. I’ve watched her rip dancers out of consumes and sew them back in with moments to spare. We could not do what we do at either the Vail Dance Festival or the Star Dancing Gala without Jan Hiland.”
Asked what she’s most proud of as a volunteer, Hiland launches into stories from 30 years ago on a topic that made a lot of folks in notoriously conservative Colorado Springs decidedly uncomfortable. Hiland grew up in the state’s hotbed of conservatism, but leaped full force into volunteering on behalf of the city’s LGBT community when her brother Eric came out.
When Colorado passed Amendment 2 (No Protected Status for Sexual Orientation) in 1992, Hiland volunteered to promote gay rights and combat discrimination statewide. Though they lost a lot of Colorado Springs-area friends, they also made a big difference promoting tolerance, and Hiland discovered some like-minded folks in Eagle County.
No matter the cause, it’s all about filling the holes in life for Hiland — and doing it with style.
“The philosophy that we have is whatever you do, make it festive,” Hiland said. “Whatever needs to be done, and if you have the time, do it. I never had a lot of money to donate, but I can donate me and my time. You need the money people, but you also need some of the doers, and I like being involved. I have FOMO, which is Fear of Missing Out.”
Past Vail Valley Foundation Volunteer of the Year recipients are:
• 2000: Kim Bender.
• 2001: David Ozawa
• 2002: Barb Treat.
• 2003: Dick Pownell.
• 2004: Bill Douglas III.
• 2005: Tenie Chicione.
• 2006: Fred Hassle and Jim Sanders.
• 2007: Susan Frampton.
• 2008: Kathryn Benysh.
• 2009: Cheryl Jensen.
• 2010: Doris Dewton.
• 2012: Cookie Flaum.
• 2013: Debby Jasper.
• 2015: Brad Ghent.
• 2016: Nancy and Mauri Nottingham.
For more information, go to http://www.vvf.org.