Deer Valley will open with Shred for Red fundraiser
Deer Valley’s season is starting off a little differently this year.
The event will include scavenger hunt-style objectives and activities, plus perks for those who raise the most money for LLS, which seeks to treat blood cancers and provide help for those going through treatment. Instead of its normal ski-with-an-Olympian event, Deer Valley on Saturday will be all about Shred for Red.
To participate, each adult must raise at least $200, or $100 for children aged 12 and under. That money buys a day pass, discounted stays at Deer Valley lodging, and discounted equipment rental, plus entry into the event and an après-meal alongside the other participants and Olympians.
All of the proceeds go to the LLS.
But for those who want be a competitive force in the day’s scavenger hunt event, the key will be to get together into a group (the max number of people allowed is eight), and to bring a sense of adventure. Participants will be given a list of activities, including reaching certain points on the mountain, finding hidden signs and logos, getting photos with certain people and racing down a NASTAR course.
“Some will be easy, some of them will be a little bit more challenging,” Bryan Fletcher, one of the event’s leaders and a former Olympic Nordic combined athlete, said of the challenges.
Prizes will be given for certain achievements. For example, those who get the most Instagram likes for an event-related photo will receive one award, while another will be given for most vertical feet skied, and another for most runs completed.
There is also a special VIP dinner Friday evening for those who raised the most money. It will be held at the St. Regis Deer Valley, where the participants can dine alongside some of the Olympians who are attending (Shannon Happe, Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, Liz Stephens, Billy Demong, Kris Feddersen and Chris Waddell, among others).
As of Monday, the event had raised more than $52,000 for the LLS. Fletcher said he hopes that number hits $100,000 by the end of the event, but he said he already considered the event a success.
For more information and to register, go to crowdrise.com/shredforred.
Fighting for lives
The fundraiser has two vocal proponents in Fletcher and Dr. Robert “Winnie” Winn, both of whom have personal experience with blood cancers.
Fletcher was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 4, and has been a vocal fundraiser for cancer research for years. He runs his own nonprofit, called ccThrive, which aims to help young people thrive after cancer.
His nonprofit is something of a take on his own life. Fletcher started Nordic combined while he was in chemotherapy, and was hooked on the sport from the first day. He has since competed in two Winter Olympics and five World Championships.
He is also finishing up a degree in health education and promotion with an emphasis in health science from Utah State University.
Through his own experience and others, he has seen the benefits of cancer research.
“It’s one of the cancers they have made the biggest progress in,” he said of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “Since when I was diagnosed in 1990 until now, there’s been a substantial increase in survival rates of the disease. I think now it’s up to 94 percent survival rate for children diagnosed with (Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia). Which is unheard of. I’m not sure what it was when I was diagnosed, but it was somewhere in the ballpark of 50 percent.”
Dr. Winn, who is the medical director for both Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley, has also come face-to-face with cancer. He and his wife’s lives were changed both by blood cancer and by medical advancements in the diseases’ treatments.
In 2005, Dr. Winn’s wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which causes a shortage of healthy red blood cells.
“That’s the bad one,” Winn said of AML. “The one that the survival rates are very low.”
When Winn asked his wife’s doctor for a prognosis, the doctor said Nancy had a week to live.
Fortunately, a recent development in cancer treatment prevented some of the problems associated with chemotherapy, and Nancy survived.
“We got very lucky,” Winn said.
But she still struggled with cancer for two years, which left Winn “a basket case.”
While his wife was in treatment, Winn sent out emails to friends and family to keep them informed, so he wouldn’t have to go through the emotional task of repeating new developments in his wife’s life over and over. Those were eventually collected by Holly Stern, the late wife of Deer Valley founder Edgar Stern, and was later turned into a book called “Night Reflections.”
Winn said the LLS stumbled upon the book and Winn has worked with the LLS since, giving talks about his experience and how to navigate life with blood cancer.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about them and willing to volunteer and do whatever I can to continue to find a cure and help treat patients and their families,” Winn said.
He said someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes, and the group of cancers account for 35 percent of all childhood cancers.
“So it’s a really prominent medical problem, and one that has great promise,” he said. “Since the 1960s, some of the survival rates have gone up 400 percent, because of the active search for treatments that goes on.”
Winn and Fletcher hope that Shred for Red can use a day of fun at Deer Valley as a way to accelerate those medical advances.