Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ski for Light: Meeting Suzanne Brown & Isley

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking with Ski for Light skier and Chair of the Endowment, Suzanne Brown and her guide dog Isley (this video was taken while I was doing the phone interview).

Suzanne has been a member of the SFL family for 22 years now, since she first read about it in one of the event newsletters. At that point she was still down hill skiing, but because she was slowly losing her sight that became harder and harder to do. She finally gave up down hill skiing entirely about 15 years ago, devoting her time solely to cross-country skiing, which she has since decided she likes better anyhow.

After a little background we chatted for a good while about the Ski for Light Endowment. It was started 10 years ago with the goal of growing the endowment enough that the event would no longer have to rely as much on various other fund raising efforts and the board could focus more on leadership. So far it sounds like the endowment's efforts have been successful--the endowment began with $25k in seed money and it has since grown to nearly $400k!

I asked Suzanne more about her involvement with the endowment and she told me that she first got involved because of past president Larry Showalter. In 2002 he had approached Suzanne about heading up the endowment, which she initially balked at, thinking she didn;t have enough experience or interest. But, Larry persisted and, in the end, framed the offer in a different way, talking about how it would be an opportunity for Suzanne to branch out and grow. With that, Suzanne took on the challenge and hasn't looked back.

Under her leadership the endowment has had a number of fundraisers, like the one last night which raised more then $4,500! Also, the endowment has seen a higher visibility with more advertising and an increased role within the SFL family and an increase in fundraising from Life Memberships. When I asked how SFl planned to use the endowment in the future, Suzanne told me that she hoped it could be a new source of scholarships and stipends for the guides as well as helping subsidize SFL if it is held at higher priced venues, like Sun Valley.

It was a lot of fun talking to Suzanne and, once again, I learned something new. Did you know that it's not proper to refer to a guide dog as a seeing eye dog unless that dog actually was trained at the Seeing Eye school? It's a term that we sighted folks have come to use as a generic term for all helper dogs, much the same way we use the term Kleenex for any facial tissue. I never knew that before. Did you?

I also learned that Ski for Light has a number of ways to support the endowment, including Life Memberships. So, if you're interested in supporting a worthy cause, make sure you check it out.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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