gabriellamatus“When in the middle of an avalanche of seemingly never-ending bad news, there’s nothing like a ray of sunshine to soften the blows. As a resident of this beautiful valley for the past twenty plus years, and like most of us here, I truly enjoy the sunshine. For me, that sunshine comes to me not only from the yellow ball in the sky, but also from so many other things, particularly the people. I have been blessed to have some wonderful people bolster my life here in this valley I call home. That list starts with my husband who I met a fifteen-minute walk from our now home. We started a rollercoaster ride days later that made me a wife and mother. My two strong, supportive and sensitive sons were both born at Vail Health. These core three have given my life such purpose and shown me the depths of love. Along the way I’ve met some fun (and funny), interesting (and interested) people with whom I’ve cemented strong friendships. And for the past seven-and-a-half years, I’ve been further blessed with mission-driven work that helps make this valley an even better place to live than nature gave us. What’s more, I do this work with smart and dedicated people whom I consider my work family. Last February, however, a dark cloud rolled over and that snow base cut loose. Breast cancer started the slide. A month later, I had a double mastectomy. A month after that, I started five months of intensive chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of daily radiation. Then three weeks of the holidays and in January, I slipped on the ice and crushed my first lumbar vertebrae. Bones don’t much like chemotherapy. By the end of June after some testing and insurance shenanigans, I had reconstructive surgery. Ten days later, it’s COVID, and not the “it’s just like a cold” kind. Ten days after that, I slipped again and this time it was lumbar two and three. Back on my back for months. Just as it’s starting to ease up, I land in the hospital with cellulitis. That was last Thursday. Which brings me to the last group of amazing people. And that is simply so many of the people in this valley who cared for me, fed me, connected me with others in my situation, brought me hope and provided sunshine in a myriad of ways. One organization in particular brought a much-needed ray of sunshine early on, and right when I needed it. The Vail Breast Cancer Group (VBCG), which operates underneath the Vail Valley Charitable Fund umbrella, has been in existence for 27 years, providing care and comfort through Shine On Bags and a $500 Day-to-Play check. This non-profit also provides direct aid grants to those recently diagnosed, and whom are experiencing a plethora of medical issues outside of those I’ve personally experienced. VBCG immediately helped me know that I would be looked after. Yes, I was having excellent care at the Shaw Cancer Center, but this was a community connection that was focused on providing comfort and respite and was just the ray of sunshine needed. I hope in this the month of breast cancer awareness, we can all take the time to reflect on what we are thankful for and remember to do breast self-exams, schedule annual medical exams and receive the recommended mammograms and ultrasounds. After all, we all want to be around to enjoy the sunshine.”

Gabriella Matus, Senior Director of Walking Mountains Science Center, and VVCF and VBCG Grant Recipient

petrie“I moved to Vail in 1979 for my first job after residency, joining five other family physicians and a radiologist. Seven physicians comprised the entire medical staff of Vail Valley Medical Center (now Vail Health Hospital). Things were much simpler then. We set our office visit fee equal to the cost of a single day ski lift ticket ($15 at the time) and we would often exchange goods for services with our patients. Through the decades medical care (and ski tickets) have become much more expensive and payment for medical services much more complicated. This is particularly problematic for patients with chronic or complex medical problems. In 1996 this was true for one of my patients, a young mother diagnosed with advanced cancer. Her bills mounted and the stress of her illness was compounded by her family’s financial pressures. A group of friends sponsored a creative fundraiser which relieved her family’s financial burdens. Although my patient ultimately succumbed to her cancer, that event was the birth of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. Since that first event, the VVCF has awarded more than 2000 grants totaling more than $9 million in financial support for our friends and neighbors experiencing medical crises. Since 1996, dozens of my patients have received aid from the VVCF. The fund has supported everything from a small child’s heart surgery to an elderly patient’s end of life care. I have attended creative fundraising events for friends and participated in VVCF sponsored triathlons. Hundreds of my clinic’s pediatric patients have received dental care through the fund’s Eagle County Smiles program. And more recently, my patients have received welcomed emotional support from the fund’s Vail Breast Cancer Group. As a physician and friend, I have witnessed the remarkable work of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund through the years. Their mantra is, “It’s all about heart!” Indeed, the VVCF truly has a heart for the medical needs of your friends and neighbors in our valley and is worthy of your support. I encourage you to join my wife, Martha, and me with an annual gift to the VVCF.”

Kent Petrie, MD, VVCF Grant Recipient

staceytodd“Since 1996, the Vail Valley Charitable Fund (VVCF) has provided financial assistance to individuals and families who live in the Vail Valley and are experiencing financial hardship due to a medical crisis or long-term illness. So far, this remarkable organization has distributed a staggering $9.4 million to more than 2,100 families. As an Eagle County resident for seven years, I had an idea of what the VVCF does, but I could not know that the VVCF would have a profound impact on my own journey. I first learned of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund through the Vail Recreation District and the Annual Summer Solstice trail race at Beaver Creek, which happens to be one of their fundraising events. As the race director, working alongside the VVCF provided me with a glimpse into the dedication of the VVCF team and the vital role they play in our community. It was only when my life took an unexpected turn in the form of a torn meniscus that I truly understood the extent of VVCF’s impact. A seemingly minor knee injury spiraled into a complex process, compounded by complications and medial challenges. In six months, I hit my maximum out-of-pocket expenses three times (due to the end of the year and a change in jobs) as well as faced insurance denials for additional physical therapy visits. Stuck in the middle stages of recovery, my physical therapist recommended that I consider an option I never thought I would need: assistance from the Vail Valley Charitable Fund through their Eagle County Moves physical therapy program. Hesitant and feeling that other community members must be in greater need, I reluctantly filled out the application. To my surprise, I was approved. The funding for additional physical therapy visits became a lifeline, propelling my recovery forward. I was able to return to hiking trails, gradually adding in running and skiing—all made possible by the support of VVCF. I am immensely grateful to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund and it goes beyond dollars and cents. The VVCF fosters a community where individuals can overcome financial barriers resulting from medical setbacks. In extending my gratitude to VVCF, I also extend an invitation to our community: Let’s continue to support and uplift each other, making Eagle County a place where no one faces the challenges of a medical crisis alone. Please consider supporting the Vail Valley Charitable Fund by spreading awareness, volunteering at one of their events, or by making a monetary donation. Our community is lucky to have the VVCF; equally, the VVCF can’t do what they do without the support of our community.”

Stacey Todd, VVCF Grant Recipient

ambramowitz“My husband and I have been in the Vail Valley for well over a decade. In 2019, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer which was devastating and seemed insurmountable. However, our amazing community rallied to support us in every way possible, especially the VVCF. Their support helped ease the financial stress and gave me time to focus on healing my whole body – in addition to the extra special gift of time with my six-year-old son and my loving husband. The VVCF exemplifies what a truly amazing and supportive community we have here in Eagle County”

Michelle Abramowitz, VVCF Grant Recipient

theresacarullo“My husband and I have resided in the Valley for almost 20 years serving as educators. From the fall of 2016 to the December of 2017, a snowball of medical events affected our lives. Fortunately, VVCF grant allowed our family to financially recover from the debt we accrued from one year of medical bills from multiple hospitals, travelling to Denver to see specialists, and covering insurance deductibles. This grant allowed us to move forward into health and well-being rather than milling about in further debt and “dis-ease”. Our family was truly fortunate to have received the help and assistance of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. We are truly appreciative and grateful to those that gave to us and continue to provide financial relief to families, like ours, who are experiencing financial hardship due to unforeseen illness.”

Theresa Carullo, VVCF Grant and Fundraiser Beneficiary

“It has been 10 months since Emmy’s last treatment session at Children’s Hospital, and she has just received another set of clear scans! Our little ladybug’s hair is growing like crazy, her energy levels are high and every day that passes since treatment is absolutely the best day. All of our spirits are through the roof getting to watch her be a regular little girl who just turned 3 years old! In other news, we are in the process of launching our very own non-profit that will be known as Emmy’s Friends. Living deep in the world of treatment the last few years and having been on the receiving end of so much help and support, we look at it as our duty to give back, as soon as possible. Emmy’s Friends is being designed to help young patients and their families who are facing life-threatening illnesses, receive better access to fresh and wholesome organic foods, nutritional guidance and bountiful resources for healthy living; all of the essential parts of both a thriving existence and battling sickness that are often grossly overlooked. Bridging the gap towards a healthier everyone through the best nutrition possible. We look forward to sharing more about our initiative soon. Thank you again for all of your support. We wouldn’t be here today if not the love and support of our amazing community.”

Much Love – The Welle Family

“We are so blessed to live in such a caring & compassionate community. The stress of a sick child is overwhelming and compounding that stress with the financial burden of excessive medical costs and unpaid time off at work is devastating. We are so grateful to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund for helping alleviate some of those immediate costs and letting our family focus on the health and well being of our children. When our newborn son was airlifted to ICU for a second time after his emergency heart surgery we knew we had great financial challenges ahead. We look forward to the opportunity to give back to this organization volunteering with our children. The VVCF is truly making a difference for our local families. When it seems like the odds are against you, it really restores your faith to have someone give you a helping hand.”

Brooke & Brett Gagnon, Grant & Fundraiser Beneficiary

amanda-painter“My journey with cancer started when I was 21 and battled and beat non-Hodgkin’s B cell lymphoma. After a treatment protocol of chemotherapy and radiation, my oncologist shook my hand and said that I would never have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma again, but after 11 years of perfect health, I developed a persistent cough and pain in my shins and lower back. As the pain increased, so did my concern. After an ambulance ride to Denver, I was diagnosed with stage 4 angiosarcoma in my bone and lung. After 12 rounds of chemo, I celebrated scans that showed no evidence of disease and was put on a maintenance drug to stay ahead of the beast. Then in November of 2018, during a self-breast exam, I discovered a lump and was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, BRACA2. Following a year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and a hysterectomy, I’m feeling good and am positive that I’ll continue to enjoy good health. The understanding, support, and generosity I received from the VVCF brightened my darkest days. When visitors think of Vail, images of snowcapped mountains, hiking trails, and blue skies come to mind. When I think of Vail, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be part of a community that has a “fourteener” heart, provides compassion and caring as support during rocky times, and guarantees 365 days of sunshine in acts of kindness and generosity. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the VVCF.”  – Amanda Painter, VVCF Grant Recipient

Megan-Heil“In the summer of 2016, my husband, Geoff, and I found out I was pregnant. Unfortunately, I quickly developed nearly fatal complications at nine weeks, and carrying to full term was uncertain. I went to the ER where a simple blood test diagnosed a blood clot, not uncommon during pregnancy, but full-body imaging to determine the location of the clot was risky. I developed a headache the following day, which turned into a horrible migraine, resulting in another ER visit. Doctors discovered three blood clots in my brain the size of my thumb, which obstructed more than 90% of the normal blood flow to the brain, after which I was put on blood thinners to help prevent future clotting while they stabilized me and the baby. This meant daily injections into my growing belly until after delivery. Believing that the risk was of clotting was a pregnancy-related issue, I was taken off blood thinners after delivering a healthy baby boy in March 2017. Four months after giving birth, I developed stroke-like symptoms and was quickly flown to Denver with another blood clot in my brain. Once again, with nearly a complete blockage in my brain, I did not suffer from any lasting neurological complications. My medical bills were mounting and my return to work was uncertain. Thanks to the generosity of our community and life-changing organizations like the VVCF, I was able to focus on my family and my health instead of my medical bills. My not-so “little” guy will be 4 later this month. I was able to return back to work for the community I love, and my family was not burdened with excessive medical debt. We are all faced with trials in life. We are not promised an easy journey, just a successful outcome.”

– Megan Heil, VVCF Grant Recipient

“I strongly support the Vail Valley Charitable Fund and am so glad it was made available to me with my premature daughter born at 32 weeks, weighing under 3 pounds, and in the hospital for two months after birth. We were so badly in debt after that. My father helped me pay off most of our hospital bills. Soon after, I developed something in my lower back. Thanks to the VVCF, I researched more affordable MRI’s, and they paid much of my orthopedic bill. I have worked ten years in early childhood, but my daughter’s medical needs, and now my medical needs are far beyond what I can afford. I have insurance for myself, but the deductible is very high and doesn’t cover much, and Medicaid for my special needs daughter. My daughter is now nine years old and is having another scoliosis surgery. She is a lot brighter than anyone can imagine! And beautiful too!”  – Karen Tripp and Victoria Chandler, Grant Recipients

Goodwin-family“Our family wants to express our immense gratitude to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund for a generous grant that helped us pay insurmountable medical bills after my husband had emergency surgery a little over a year ago. Today we are back on our feet again, but none of that would have been possible without the generous support of our treasured community. We are forever grateful for the support of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund and all our friends and family. They supported us and helped us get through this very difficult situation. Please know that the gifts you give to families like ours really mean the world and make all the difference in our lives. My husband, three sons, and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

– Cindy Goodwin, Carlos Armenta, Carlitos, Denzel, and Jair Armenta Goodwin, VVCF Grant Recipients