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By Randy Wyrick, Staff Writer for the Vail Daily

"You'll fall, everyone does, and it'll hurt", said Alejandro Arreola. "Pick yourself up and keep moving forward." Arreola has battled cerebral palsy so long that he wore out his walker and wheelchair and was dragging himself around his home. The Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation got wind of that and put the swift in Swift Eagle. Now, he can he get around and better see where he's going. They came up with a new electric wheelchair, a new walker and new glasses.

"I want to thank everyone for your kindness and efforts in getting me the most amazing gifts over the last four months," Arreola said. "In addition to standing and moving easier, I now can actually see where I'm going with my terrific new glasses. They help me see distances and close up and even get dark when I go outside. Cathy said she thinks they make me look like a lawyer, and I think I look like a movie star."

THE KID'S A FIGHTER

Arreola, 30, rang a bell with Swift Eagle board member Cathy Dockery who work with him years ago. Swift Eagle found him the walker that enabled him to stride confidently across the stage with his 2006 Battle Mountain High School graduation class. For a guy who doesn't seem to walk that well, he walks everywhere. One rainy night he didn't walk home. He slipped and fell, and was out there all night. A neighbor spotted him the next morning and called the ambulance. The next day he was out walking again.

"He's the toughest person I've ever met," said Linda Welch, his Battle Mountain counselor.

He grins from ear to ear and says, "It's amazing what I can do!"

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Alejandro is surrounded by some of the any people from locla non-profits who helped him secure a new electric wheelchair, walker, glasses, computer, and other things. Alejandro is battling cerebral palsy. From left are Linda Welch, Swift Eagle Director Pat Hamilton, Valley Charitable Fund Executive Director Michelle Maloney, Swift Eagle Board Cathy Dockery, and Karen Carthy.

COMING FULL CIRCLE

When Arreola's application showed up this year, Hamilton and the Swift Eagle folks asked to help. Welch reconnected with Arreola and has been making sure he makes his appointments with Dr. Kent Petrie, health and human services, physical therapy, Catholic Charities and Kaiser Permanente. Dockery and Welch came up with a priority list that included a walker, electric wheelchair, health insurance, telephone, computer, physical therapy and a back brace.

Hamilton was chatting with Michelle Maloney, of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, who mentioned that a friend had both an electric and a manual wheelchair, plus a walker to donate. Hamilton sent Alejandro's story to Maloney and Karen Carthy.

"Well, it is a small world," Carthy said.

When Arreola started attending Eagle Valley Elementary School all those years ago, Karen Carthy carried him on and off the school bus, found him his first rickety wheelchair and bought him his first backpack. He's bi-lingual, English and Spanish, and talks about his life with anyone who'll listen — in either language.

"A lot of people don't appreciate life," he said.

GIFT OF HOPE

The electric wheelchair is too big for Arreola's current home, so they're trying to find one he can use indoors, or a different home, or construct some sort of outside shelter for it so he can use it around his neighborhood.

In the meantime, Arreola has his new glasses, a new walker, a new manual wheelchair he can use indoors, a cellphone and a computer. He is going to counseling, he is doing physical therapy and has expressed a desire to be a DJ. He's making a video about being disabled and has more hope in his day than he's had for quite a while, Hamilton said.

Welch has been taking him to Battle Mountain High School to meet with counselors and tech people to learn more about his computer. He can connect to the internet at home and play CDs and DVDs on it.

"I have good ideas. I would really like to become a DJ and make some dinero. That way I can help pay for therapy and help other people," Arreola said. "I also want to pay my bills. Another idea is to create a blog, where I let others know what restaurants and places around here help disabled people."

By Tricia Swenson
November 2016

I have a lot of respect for those who have been featured in the Vail Undressed Calendars, a project of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. In fact, I have been in their shoes, or, I guess many weren't wearing shoes, but I do know the feeling.

I was asked by the Vail Valley Charitable Fund to participate in the 2005 Vail Undressed Calendar as the Ladies of Media for the month of February. I was told there would be five of us, so I figured safety in numbers (or at least more people to hide behind!) and agreed to drop everything for a good cause.

At the time, the Ladies of Media consisted of Holli Snyder, of NRC Broadcasting; Suzy Sackman, of KZYR; Carolyn Pope, of the Vail Daily; Jennifer Coulson, of Channel 5; and me. For many of us, this was our first meeting. There were a lot of nervous giggles and some liquid courage, but we were in the comfort of photographer Katherine Schmidt's home studio and it was all ladies, so it wasn't much different than being in the locker room at the gym, except you probably don't have Champagne at the gym or anyone taking your picture while nude.

It's amazing to see the lengths and the heights — some photo shoots take place up at 10,000 feet above sea level — the photographer and models will go to in order to get the shot. Action photos involving skiing, biking, running, kayaking and fishing have graced the pages of the Undressed Calendar throughout the years.

The Vail Valley Charitable Fund helps locals in financial distress after a medical crisis. This organization started out with the community coming together to help out Cindy Nash after a cancer diagnosis. Since 1996, they have given over $7 million to approximately 1,400 people in our area.

The Vail Undressed Calendar had a 10-year run and to celebrate their 20th anniversary, they brought back one of their top fundraising ideas. If you'd like to see who stripped down, calendars can be purchased at Spa Anjali, Crazy Mountain Brewery, The Bookworm of Edwards and 7 Hermits.

By Randy Wyrick, Staff Writer for the Vail Daily
February 2017

The Vail Valley Charitable Fund coordinated a long list of local groups rallied to make sure Joshua Casillas has a safe ride to the doctor. Joshua suffers from severe cerebral palsy. He's also 14 years old and weighs 140 pounds, too big for his mother Monica to lift him in and out of the family car. They couldn't get him back and forth to doctors' appointments in Denver. The Casillas family needed a wheelchair conversion van, and this week they received one.

"We are very happy and grateful," Monica said. The effort started with Wheels for Joshua, a charitable fund fundraiser in November of last year.DSC_0008

A NEW SET OF WHEELS

The event raised $20,000 of the $25,000 the family needed, and the charitable fund started through its network to raise the rest. The Swift Eagle Foundation, the Gallegos Corporation and the Eagle County Ambulance District picked up the rest of the tab.

"With all the people who supported us in all the aspects that made possible the accomplishment of our goal, Wheels for Joshua taught me that there are still many generous people who have a heart of gold," Monica said. "We are very fortunate to have found them."

Joshua attends Gypsum Creek Middle School. When he was eight months old, he contracted meningitis, which resulted in many hospital stays. Since then he has been diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy, intractable seizure disorder and other mental and motor delays.

The Casillas family asked the Vail Valley Charitable Fund for help.

"Usually the maximum grant is $5,000, and that won't go very far when you're buying a van like the one they needed," said Michelle Maloney, VVCF Executive Director. After an exhaustive search, the Vail Valley Charitable Fund found a wheelchair conversion van at Summit Auto and Cycle in Zumbrota, Minnesota. The van is a 2010 Ford E150 with 75,000 miles on it. Summit Ford was asking $21,888, but sold it to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund for $21,500, and even drove it down from Minnesota for no extra charge.

The young man who drove it left Zumbrota at 5:30 a.m., and pulled into the Casillas' driveway 14 hours later.

"They were amazing, so gracious," Maloney said.

Monica took it for a test drive, and it passed muster. She has relatives in the auto repair industry and they gave it their blessing.

"This was a collaboration at its best in our community — all sorts of people came to the event, and people who supported it and made it a reality," Maloney said. "And a big extra thanks to Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation, Eagle County Paramedic Services and the Gallegos Corporation."

Fifteen years ago, my family faced a large financial strain when my mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. My name is Montana Nash and I am the daughter of Curt and Cindy Nash. Because I was only 2 years old, I don't remember much about that time. Now that I am older, I have learned about our experience from family members and friends. I know that my mom gave the utmost strength to battle that horrible disease and fight for every last moment of her life. I also know that community fundraisers gave our family the money that we needed to pay medical bills and give my mom the most fulfilling last months of life. Her experience made an impact on the individuals around her, several of whom consequently created The Vail Valley Charitable Fund to help others like my mom.

I am now 17 years old and a senior at Battle Mountain High School. I am a member of my high school dance team and also take classes at the Vail Valley Academy of Dance. Like my parents did, I take advantage of our active and beautiful valley by biking, skiing, and hiking. As I started to think about colleges, careers, and my future, I felt that volunteering would be beneficial. I have chosen to work with the VVCF because it connects back to my family and is a perfect opportunity to understand what my mom and dad experienced 15 years ago. I was also inspired by Andrew Claymon, who was a classmate of mine. I attended the fundraising event that the VVCF held for him in 2009 and was completely impressed by the number of people who came out to support such an amazing young kid.

When I really started researching the VVCF and met with Karen Simon, their executive director, I truly began to understand the mission of the organization. By supporting and caring for families in our community during a medical crisis, the VVCF has blessed many families, like mine, with the opportunity to stay in our valley and plan for a bright future, even during the toughest times. The VVCF has accomplished so much since my mom was sick, helping over 1,000 local families and raising more than $5 million. This is a highly successful organization that I am proud to be a part of. Involving myself gives me an opportunity to give back to those that helped my family when we were in crisis. It also gives me an idea of what it felt like to be in the auditorium at my mom's fundraiser in 1996. I hope others will continue to support the VVCF so that more kids like me have the opportunity to share their stories. Here's to another successful 15 years, VVCF!


From the Vail Daily

Editor's note: Montana Nash was just a toddler when her family was the focus of the first fund-raiser held by the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. Now, she wants to help the group and its mission of helping locals facing massive medical bills.

by Rohn Robbins
June 2016

The Vail Valley Charitable Fund will be 20 years old this September. In those 20 years, we have given grants in excess of $8 million and have aided more than 1,800 families in our community. We have helped your friends and neighbors, your loved ones, people you likely know and care about.

The hardships, however, never end and the needs are often more than we can fully address. While we can help, too often, we cannot fix the suffering that has knocked so desperately at our door.

What the Vail Valley Charitable Fund does is assist those in our community who have fallen on challenging financial times owing to an unexpected medical crisis. Just like illness itself, the Charitable Fund does not discriminate for or against any particular condition; if it is serious — heart disease, cancer, accident, or a myriad of other ills — for the last 20 years, we have been here to help. A little girl who needed a new heart. A family man who would die without a kidney transplant. Too many kinds of cancer and maladies to remember.

Sometimes, the money we grant goes directly to doctor’s bills. Sometimes, it goes to keep the lights on or to pay the rent, or for child care when a family member cannot work, owing either to his illness or in caring for a sick or injured loved one. Once, it went to fulfill a toddler’s wish to see the ocean before she died.

Most of our funding is small, with donations under $100 outnumbering those that are higher. And for each donation, we are grateful. To be sure, we have had our angels who have given larger sums but these are few and far between. To quote one of my favorites, Dr. Seuss, “Oh the places (we’d) go” with a larger nest egg.

We are the folks behind the Vail Undressed calendars, the Summer Solstice Trail Run, the BecTri, the LG Tri, the Oktoberfest Shuffle and a dozen more events throughout the year. We have been the beneficiary of the largesse of others from the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines, to the Reds Whites & Brews, to Vail Valley Cares, to the United Way, the Vail Daily and too many more to name, each of whom we count as blessings.

We do more than simply help financially — though that alone is often a life-saver.

What else we do is rally the community and offer love and hope. From the hundreds who showed up in support of Cindy Nash, to the hundreds more who strained the capacity of the Kaltenburg Castle in our Relief for Eef, to the crowds that gathered in support of Andrew Claymon, to the nearly 1,000 who lined up to care for Kailyn Forsberg, the love, tears and generosity have poured forth for them and for the dozens and dozens more for whom we have helped raise funds and spirits.

Where we started 20 years ago was with a young family with a dire need. The mother of a two-year-old was battling advanced-stage cancer. That little girl is now a bright, gracious and accomplished young woman who we like to think we helped get through the hardest time with the outpouring of support that met her family in their time of need.

What is next, with your continued support, is the next 20 years, in which we hope to expand the giving we can offer and the building up of our community we, in joining hands with all of you, will hopefully accomplish.

Together, we can dream great dreams. Please join us in our 20th year celebration.

And oh, the places we’ll go.