By Ann Butler
Every year, the Durango Adaptive Sports Association invites yours truly to join it for some of the Dave Spencer Ski Classic activities, and every year, I haven’t made it for one reason or another.
This year gets a gold star on the calendar, as I finally made it to the Awards Dinner that wraps up the weekend, and boy, am I glad I did. Held at the DoubleTree Hotel, the high spirits, the many jokes and the amount of money raised – more than $93,000 – made it one of the big events of the year.
Twenty-five teams and 21 business sponsors, along with a lot of generous friends and family, made the event so successful.
The 29th annual classic, which is named after ASA’s founder, was Feb. 24 to 26. It was Karen Esser’s 10th outing as “Chick in Charge,” as she is affectionately called around the ASA office.
The headliner was ASA participant Brian Shafer and his parents, Mary and John, who year after year raise the most by any individual for the ASA, which believes outdoor recreation should be accessible to everyone. This year, their total was $8,655.
Their secret? An investment of time and commitment. It starts with handwritten notes to friends and family, talking about what the program has meant to them. That’s hundreds of handwritten notes, folks, a true effort in these days of texting and emails.
The Shafers have a ritual after the notes go out. Brian gets the mail every night, reads the responses to his parents and John Shafer ceremonially enters the donations on the spreadsheet.
Shafer’s longtime teammate, Dave Trautmann, was not far behind. A former ASA board president, Trautmann raised more than $6,500 this year, making him the Top Fundraising Adult. With two members in the lead like that, their team, which also includes Miles Lillard, Doug Miller and Corbin Miller, had the highest amount raised by a team, bringing in more than $20,000.
They were also good for some laughs. With a theme always topically connected to local news, this year, they became the Lake Nighthorse Fish School. Last year, if memory serves, they paid homage to the dearly departed Arc of History.
Anyone who doubted the need for ASA in our community would have been convinced otherwise after hearing Lynn Martens speak about the joys, sorrows and challenges of her “profoundly disabled son,” Cole. The activities and support ASA has provided for her family has made ASA staff and volunteers part of the family, she said. There was not a dry eye in the house.
One of those volunteers, who has made measurable contributions to the organization with both spirit and gusto, was honored with the organization’s highest honor. The Dave Spencer Award went to Paula Mills, the board president, who has also organized fundraisers, stuffed envelopes and done whatever else needed doing during her volunteer years with the organization.
The Dave Spencer Ski Classic is an event with a lot of moving parts, starting with the welcome party on the Friday night, held this year for the first time in First National Bank of Durango’s new community meeting room. Saturday was Race Day, where teams and individuals win prizes for best predicting their run times, speed and memorable wipe-outs. The teams generally are made up of ASA participants and supporters.
Shawn Glasco is both precise and swift, predicting his target time, 14.95 minutes, on the nose, as well as having the fastest men’s time.
The Saddle Butte/Arc of the Southwest team came within 0.17 of predicting the cumulative time for all five members – Isabel Mora, Kaylan Wait, Martie Woodford, David Wait and Joey Grzyb.
The fastest women’s skier was Aleah Austin of Team Coke, who made it down the race course in 17 minutes and 17 seconds. (She’s speedy – now a young teen, she first won this award when she was in the sixth grade.) The adult Coca-Cola team, consisting of Frank and Tiffany Mapel, Mike Somrak and Jimmy Knight and Meredith Mapel, was the fastest team, with a time of 1:31:44.
The Sunday of the classic is dedicated to the Mountain Rally, a wacky combination of a poker run, trivia challenge and scavenger hunt. The Force was with the Young Jedis, who won both the rally and Top Fundraising Kid Team for bringing in close to $4,500 for Adaptive Sports. Team members were Austin Romero, Karson Harbison, Kyler Harbison, Brandon Papi and Jacob Papi.
The Community Partner Award (a service team) went to the Purgatory Resort Ski Patrol Team, which raised more than $2,000. Members were Andrea Zeiner, Mel Russer, Mitch Carrier, Liz Edwards and Robert Rydiger.
Because costumes are part of the fun, an award goes to the Best Team with a Theme. First National Bank’s “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys” won hands-down. Members were Dana McCrary, Scott McCrary, Alissa Wolf, Chad Vandam and Elliott Fitz. (Picture monkey suits with banana accessories that were consumed during the day.)
Jackie Dowling, whose family moved to Durango specifically because of Adaptive Sports, and who learned to ski just this year, scored the Body Beater Award, also known as the Wild Wheelie Award for epic crashes. Because she skied in a cow onesie, the award was temporarily renamed the Cow Tipping Award this year.
Congrats to all involved.
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