Daily Archives: July 3, 2017


Cowboy Wisdom

The character in the play, A Man for All Seasons, written by Robert Bolt, is portrayed as “a man of principle, envied by rivals and loved by common people and by his family.” Robert Whittington, a 14th century English grammarian defined the meaning as “a man for all occasions, whether happy or sad.” At the time, Whittington was talking about Sir Thomas More, the 16th century Chancellor of England, about whom the play is based.

For those who knew George “Bud” Gates, the phrase “a man for all seasons,” can aptly be applied, for he was respected by all those who met him and was loved dearly by his family. He was a man for all occasions. Unlike More, a chancellor, Gates was a cowboy in every way. And he walked that walk and talked that talk! Raised on the Gates Ranch, Bud who passed away in 2016, was a fourth-generation rancher who passed on his knowledge and “ranchin’ ways” to his five children, Kip, Doug,Vienna, Nancy and Tami, as well as to his 15 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. He and his wife, Marge, were married for 68 years. Bud was an Eagle County commissioner for 12 years and was recognized for distinguished service, from the floor of the United States House of Representatives, by then Representative Scott McInnis.

Yet being a rancher, tending his cattle and land is what Bud was all about. When he was on the range, he was in his element. And he passed on some “cowboy wisdom” to his youngins’ and anyone else who crossed his path. In fact, Bud was quite well known for his “wisdom,” and seemed to have some for everything!

HE TAUGH this children and grandchildren all that a cowboy needed to know. Whenthey awoke, they were to “Thank the Lord for the morning and live for the day.” He told them to commit themselves to the land that their ancestors homesteaded for them back in the 1880s and to always do things that would improve, not only its looks, but its value and integrity. It was important for them to love the land, he said, for what it did for the family and that if they didn’t take care of it like they should, it would cheat them. He taught them how to build fences, dig ditches, irrigate the land the proper way – with a shovel – and to train horses and be a cowman. And if one of ‘em got hurt, he’d tell ‘em to “cowboy up.”

HE LOVED his cows. He loved his horses, too, but his passion was in the Hereford breed of cattle, and he took pride in having the best cows he could have, buying the best bulls to breed the cows and to improve genetics.

HE WAS so enamored with ranching that he and filmmaker, Roger Brown, produced Western Ranching: Culture in Crisis, in the 1990s, in which they tried to educate the public that ranchers were the best stewards of the land. According to Vail Daily writer, Randy Wyrick, the film was “a response to the growing cacophony of misinformation from developers who wanted land and water for residential growth.”

HE SAID, at the time, “When you takeus (ranchers) out of that wheel, you’ve got a broken wheel. Money is not our main goal. Ranching is a lifestyle. We sacrifice to live here. We love that land. We love it and we’ve been good stewards.” When the film was made, the average ranching family’s income was $30,000.

HE KNEW everything about ranching. And from the wisdom he had acquired from growing up and working with the ranchers, he was busy punching cows or digging ditches for anyone who asked. His outlook was, “If you’re going to take time to do it, do it right the first time.”

HE HAD a passion for horses, was a great horseman and taught his son, Kip, the cor- rect way to train the animal. He explained that the horse was to be respected and that patience was required when working with him. A great sportsman, Bud also introduced his kids to hunting and fishing.

HE HAD something to say about everything! Bud suggested that, “before you try to train kids, you should train a horse.” And, “If you’re going to ride it, put a seat on it.” He loved to say, “I won’t go to their funeral because they won’t be goin’ to mine,“ or “Get in out of the rain. You don’t see those chickens out in the rain, and they have a small head.” If someone was having a marriage problem, his advice was, “You can leave if you want, but you’ll both only have half a sheet and neither of you will be warm.”

Everyone knew that when Bud was around, you had to listen real close – ‘cause you never wanted to miss his great sense of humor, his cowboy words of wisdom. He was just full of joy and “lived life like someone left the gate open.”

When Western romance author, Amanda McIntyre was asked to list the characteristics of the perfect cowboy, she wrote, “1. Pride. In his work, his family, his home, in himself; 2. Trustworthy. His word is his bond; 3. Tenacious. He never quits, especially when things are toughest; 4. Protective of those in his care – women, children, animals, the land; 5. Courage. He might feel fear, but he looks it straight in the eye.”

That describes Bud Gates to a “t.” He was the perfect cowboy.



There is a place up Colorado River Road in Gypsum where children’s dreams, literally, come true. A happy place where children do things they never thought they would or even could do. It’s a place where they’re welcomed with open arms and where they can just “be.” It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful. It’s extraordinary. And for a few weeks it’s their loving home. It’s Roundup River Ranch where kids with serious illnesses can have some serious fun!

Roundup River Ranch carries out the vision of actor Paul Newman, who founded the first Hole in the Wall Camp (now SeriousFun Children’s Network) in 1988 in Ashford, Connecticut. The camp was named after the gang in Newman’s film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Both camps are part of a worldwide association of camps that serve children, ages 17 and under, and their families coping with cancer and other serious illnesses and conditions.


It all began in 2006, when Alison Knapp, a local philanthropist, officially founded Roundup River Ranch. She recruited a diverse board of directors that included Ruth Johnson, who now serves as president and CEO of the ranch. Over the next five years, the board, staff, corporate partners, volunteers and many others worked tirelessly, and finally welcomed their first campers on July 6, 2011.


“The support we have had is such an example of ‘it takes a village,’ ” says Johnson. “Ten years ago we were literally just sitting around having coffee and thinking about what to do first. And now, ten years later, we have a site. A site where we have six sessions (each focusing on specific illnesses) in the summer with three sessions off-site in the winter. We have been able to serve 5,000 campers to date. It was our wildest dreams and we achieved that and more. And looking back, we had pretty bold dreams and it’s so amazing to see it all.”


The kids are welcomed at the entrance to camp by a crowd of cheering staff and volunteers, and then escorted to the “depot” to meet their cabin nurse, counselor and the other kids they will “cabin” with for the next week. And this is not just an ordinary depot. There is a whimsical treatment to the waiting room. At its center, a sombrero-shaped couch where new campers find themselves immediately able to get to know each other. Literally, it’s a circle of love.


The nurses station was specially designed to look like a caboose. In here all the medications for the campers and staff are stored. In fact, the ranch serves approximately 20 different medical conditions with 33 different diagnoses. For example, a medical condition might be cancer, but there are various types of cancer.

“The nurses take medications to the campers. In that way, we normalize the camper’s experience of having a condition,” explains Dr. Marita Bledsoe, medical director. “So, first thing in the morning, the nurses take the medicines to the cabin. And then to every activity, say, if they need an inhaler or anything during the day. At meals, everyone at the table – the campers, the staff, the volunteers – take their meds so that everyone at the table is taking medication at the same time.


“And that’s a huge deal for these kids, because usually they’re the only kid in their family or the only kid at their school who has to take medications. So, they look around and ask, ‘Everyone here has to take medicine?’ In fact, some campers say you can only go to camp if you’re on meds. It takes huge coordination. We gave over 11,000 doses of meds last summer, and luckily had 20 pharmacy volunteers, which made an incredible difference. Every dose has to be exactly right. And this summer, we know it’s going to be about the same amount.”

Over the summer, the ranch will hold six five-day camp sessions for children who are being treated for such illnesses as heart, lung, sickle cell and kidney disease, neurologic or genetic disorders, cancer and brain tumors, amongst others. Camp weekends, which take place in the spring and fall, are for entire families who are dealing with a specific illness.

And having serious fun is really what Roundup River Ranch is about! As the lyrics of the song, Get Happy, suggests, the campers “forget their troubles and get happy.” And that’s indicated in all that they do and say. In fact, at any time, campers and staff alike can go into the costume closet, put on a costume and walk around like that all day. No one even looks twice. It’s simply, plain fun! One camper says, “It is just a whole week to forget about everything and just go have fun.”

The camp’s yurt is where the kids can be inventive and show off their talents in unexpected ways – be it with paint, clay, crayon or watercolor. Some make “worry dolls” to put under their pillows to make all their cares go away. Others might write poems or make bracelets and masks. You can easily see pure joy on their faces as they create.


On any given day, you will find kids out and about, be it hanging from the zipline, horseback riding, conquering a challenge course (a very tall climbing pole) fishing, learning archery or even putting on a show. You name it, they do it. Every single camper is up for the adventure. They want to learn. They want to conquer. They want to do things they never, ever thought they could do. And at this camp, anything is possible.

The camp has made it a priority to accommodate every single child. For instance, beanbag chairs are used in the kayaks and canoes to support campers who rely on wheelchairs, have neurologic conditions or other conditions that would usually compromise their ability to participate. Various accommodations are evident in everything that a camper might need when participating in a sport.

The camp is all about the children encountering new challenges and gaining confidence.

The experience of one camper, Madi, who had attended camp for years, says it all. Madi was was afraid of heights, and was unable to tackle the Challenge Course. “Because I’m 17, and this was my last year of camp, I knew I needed to tackle the course and leave all my fears on the table,” she reveals. “With the support of my friends and counselors, I actually climbed to the top of the wall and zipped down the zipline. It was amazing! It made me feel so brave. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.”

It’s remarkable how much more confident the kids become after just one week at camp. “I was a little nervous. Then I got a little braver. Then I got in a boat,” says one camper.


“When I am not at camp, I am shy and I am usually on my own. But at camp I talk about myself and things around me,” says another.

And still another says, “I can’t believe I did that. I can’t wait to see what I can try next.” “The word I use to explain camp is ‘transformative,’” says Dr. Adel Younoszai, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital in Denver who has attended the camp’s cardiology weekend since 2011. “Kids come in, often times for the first time away from their parents – and it’s true for teenagers as well as for young children – and they have a chance to get out and explore their environment. It’s a place where they get to hear ‘yes’ to almost every question. ‘Can I try that?’ Yes, you can! It’s not whether they can do something. It’s just that we have to find the right way so it’s safe.

“So the kids come in and really go from being shy and not sure what to expect. And when they leave, they’re full of self confidence. They’ve learned so many things about themselves. One of the things I hear over and over is that when they’re here they don’t feel like they’re being judged. They are around people who traveled the same journey.

“I think it’s the same thing that a lot of kids go through when they go to summer camp, as summer camp can be transformative for anyone. But for kids like this, the difference in the gain is so much greater.”ranch_9

In 2015, Roundup River Ranch acquired The Farm, a 40-acre ranch adjacent to the existing property. It provides additional staff housing and a new home and with its expansive views of the Colorado River and a long, picturesque trail ride, it’s ideal for the camp’s equestrian program. As well, an additional building that will be a combination of offices for the organizational staff, housing and an observatory is in the planning stages with hopes of breaking ground this year. The ranch is also working on a major solar initiative.

“There have been thousands and thousands of people who have been involved and instrumental in their own way in helping us to accomplish and make this camp a reality,” says Johnson. “The gratitude and appreciation from all of us at the ranch cannot be measured. We have about 1,000 volunteers that come from all over the country. And most of them come for a full week or our three-day family camp. This year our goal is to serve about 1,400 campers.”

The camp is totally free of charge to the camper and the families. “The campers are the heart and soul of everything we do,” shares Johnson. “We run on people power. It’s important to remember that a lot of thought goes into the ‘fun’ you see at camp. It’s really about achieving intentional outcomes for our campers through fun. And we want them to take home a heightened resilience, self-confidence and not only positive, but permanent changes to how they feel about themselves and skills they are able to perform. We want all of this to serve them well throughout their whole lives. “Talk about the healing power of ‘place,’” continues Johnson. “This location was chosen to support that. We’re in a canyon on 125 acres along the Colorado River.”

When he opened his first Hole in the Wall camp, Paul Newman said that he “wanted it to be a place where kids can ‘raise a little hell’ and have the chance to be a fun-loving, worry-free kid.” And, over the years, his camps have changed thousands of lives. And, certainly, Newman’s vision clearly lives on at Roundup River Ranch.


An Ode to water

It’s easy to forget that fresh water is not a limitless resource. In fact, there isn’t much of it in the world. The precious supply we do have must be protected and preserved. That’s where Eagle River Watershed Council (ERWC) comes in.

The group, comprised of three full-time staff members, a board, a team of about 1,000 volunteers and countless partners and overseers that range from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Town of Vail, considers itself “the watch dogs” of the Eagle River and the Vail Valley’s rare bounty of fresh waterways. The council works to preserve and restore the Eagle and Colorado Rivers, and all of the tributaries that run through Eagle County. It organizes mass trash pickups along the roads that line the waterways, tests water quality levels and makes sure the ecosystems of the rivers and streams are intact and also cleans up areas that have been compromised by pollution. Some of the organization’s bigger cleanup and restoration tasks include the portion of the Eagle River below Gilman that has been declared a Superfund site due to the area’s mining toxins leaking into the water. Another project involves storm and infrastructure work along Gore Creek to restore the diversity of the creek’s insect habitat, which then ensures that it maintains its status as Gold Medal fishing waters.

Ask any member of the ERWC why the organization refers to the Eagle River as the “lifeblood” of the Vail Valley, and the explanations are staggering.

“We call it the lifeblood because it affects every piece of life here in the valley, whether it’s recreation or the ski resorts,” says Brooke Ranney, ERWC’s projects and events coordinator. “We all depend on the river for drinking water, and we make sure we have a good quality water source. Then, there’s getting out on the river and its economic value.”

According to the group, the fly-fishing industry alone is worth $4 billion, to say nothing of the valley’s most prized asset—the ski industry which relies on the Eagle River for snowmaking.

“The Eagle River as well as the Upper Colorado draw a lot of people here, even if that means they came to ski or snowboard. People are using the mountains for skiing and snowboarding, not realizing that the manmade snow comes from water pulled from the river. As people stay here or come to visit in the summer and expand their visitation of Eagle County, the river plays a huge role in their decision to stay or come back again,” says Holly Loff, ERWC executive director.

Lizzie Schoder, the group’s education and outreach coordinator, heads up Watershed Wednesdays, free interactive tours, workshops and presentations centered around the watershed. The group also travels to local schools, teaching students of all ages various components of the watershed, from vegetation, insects and wildlife that comprise the streams’ habitat to ways they can preserve and protect the water supply—being mindful not to litter, turn off water while brushing teeth, pick up after one’s dog and avoid overusing water for landscaping or washing cars.

“We’re noticing people are unaware that storm drains flow directly to the river, so picking up after your dog is a huge one, not mowing lawns all the way to the river, letting native plants grow along it, being mindful of chemicals and pesticides used on the lawn,” Schoder says. “It’s something often forgotten … that we have so little true, fresh water in the world, so the way we allocate it and manage it is vital.”

The council collaborates with numerous local, regional and national entities to protect and preserve the water that runs through Eagle County. Also crucial to keep in mind is that while the rivers are the lifeblood of everything in this valley—the drinking water, snowmaking source and cornerstone of the flyfishing, kayaking and rafting industries—it also trickles down … quite literally.

“It’s important to note that we’re the headwaters of both the Colorado and the Eagle Rivers, so if we do anything to impact water quality here, everybody downstream suffers,” Loff points out. “If our rivers weren’t protected and there wasn’t vegetation there, it wouldn’t have the impact and draw that it does. Our economy would suffer quite a bit. It goes beyond people who are hardcore kayakers and recreationists. Water slows everyone down and reconnects you to nature and things that are really important in life. The EPA is always front and center in protecting clean water nationwide. Although drinking water is critical to all of us, people need to be more vigilant and stand up for clean water.”

Needless to say, the Eagle River Watershed Council is doing its part for the Vail Valley and beyond.


Eagle Valley Rummage

It is a fixture of late summer in Vail. The third and fourth weekends in August, over 3000 people converge on the original Battle Mountain HIgh School in Minturn’s Maloit Park, which the the Eagle Valley Rummage Sale occupies courtesy of the Eagle School District. Eager patrons start lining up at 5 a.m. to get first pick of the merchandise which fills 14 rooms as well as outside tents. The sale’s scope is tremendous, and there is almost nothing you can’t buy. Locals come to outfit their children for the coming school year and load up on books for winter reading. The “new room” contains donated clothing which is brand new, and the toy room is a child’s cornucopia of delights. Looking for housewares, sporting equipment, a computer or sound system, a crib or a stroller? This is the place for you. The clothing selection is so extensive that there is even a room dedicated to denim, and of course ski gear abounds. Under the tents, one can find bikes, furniture and other large items. The categories are too numerous to name.

-008Needless to say, an event like this does not materialize overnight. Volunteers have been working day in and day out since the middle of May. They are a true cross-section of the community for whom no task is too humble. They range from members of the Eagle Valley Humane Society, which is responsible for the book room and ski clothing, to the Eagle Seniors’ Center which has taken ownership of the linen room and the handicrafts. As well, members of Boy Scout Troup 231 participate in manning the shoe room and provide and sell lunch on both sale weekends. And, Vail Mountain Rescue is out in force taking charge of the parking lot. Altogether, it takes 14,000 volunteer hours to put on this remarkable show of community solidarity.

Once the sale is over, whatever is left is boxed up and picked up by the Salvation Army of Denver. The event raises approximately $180,000 to support over 70 Eagle Valley nonprofits. Volunteers from each group work on the sale, and the profits are distributed to their organizations at the rate of seven dollars per volunteer hour. Heading the list in 2016 were the Humane Society, Eagle Seniors and Vail Mountain Rescue. Other groups run the gamut from the Veterans of Foreign Wars to Eagle Valley High School and Berry Creek Middle School. In this valley, no one is too old or too young to volunteer, and no community group is too small to have an impact.

When and how did this remarkable endeavor start? Like so many things in Vail, it began in the 1960s when the town was barely a dot on the map. It was spearheaded by early valley residents with big hearts and unlimited energy who were determined to build a community. The idea for a rummage sale was born of the necessity to raise funds for the two teachers who staffed the town’s original school. Back then, the sale was run by parents. In the early 1970s it became the purview of the newly formed Eagle Valley Community Fund. In 1974, Vi Brown was elected the fund’s president and Nancy Nottingham its vice president. Vi and her husband Byron were the sale’s guiding lights for more than 50 years. Byron crisscrossed the increasingly populous and spread-out community in his truck, picking up bulky items. People who wanted to drop off donations were encouraged to place them on the Browns’ porch in West Vail. The organization functioned so amicably and smoothly that they did not hold another election until 2016, when Vi stepped down and was succeeded by whom else, but Nancy!

You have probably heard the name Nottingham before, think Nottingham Lake in Avon. Nancy married into one of the valley’s original ranching families, having met her husband Mauri at the University of Colorado. In 1968 they moved back to Vail, and plunged into the ski industry, building and running the Talisman Lodge. Then, for many years, Nancy managed the resort’s children’s programs. She also founded the ski area’s employee childcare center. In 2016, she and Mauri were honored with the Vail Valley Foundation’s Volunteer of the Year Award. Nancy brims with enthusiasm for all things Vail and relishes her busy schedule of community pursuits, but she emphasizes the need for a new generation of volunteer leaders. Even the best held baton must eventually be passed. For the moment, however, the rummage sale remains in her most capable hands, and she is its remarkable cheerleader in chief



A fashion show and presentation titled “Women in Philanthropy,” featuring clothes from Nina McLemore was held at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens last summer. This year’s “Breakfast in the Gardens” will be held on Friday, June 23, from 8:30 to 10:30am. The event, which celebrates the gardens’ supporters, will showcase apparel from Nina McLemore, Pepi Sports and Luca Bruno.



Logan Trujillo and Sean Keefe, members of Gypsum’s Sweetwater Bandits 4-H club, were instrumental in raising over $14,000 for the fight against cancer. The money, which was donated to the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, was raised during a special livestock auction at the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo, a program created by the 4-H Club and fair board. Each year the 4-H Club participants invest countless hours preparing for exhibition at the fair and sale at the Junior Livestock Auction.



The Kitchen Collage had a week long 20th anniversary celebration to say thank you to the community for its support. After twenty years, Kathy Rohlwing who partnered with Amy McDonnell in the business, retired, and McDonnell will now be at the helm, solo. “Over the years, this community, which we love so much, has been extremely supportive,” says McDonnell. “And we look forward to working with them for another twenty years!”



In January, art lovers turned out to meet New York artist, Mikhail Turovsky at Vail International Gallery, which features contemporary as well as historic work. “When I look at Turovsky’s work, I see a distillation of the greatest modern painters of the 20th-century, filtered through his own talent, his own vision,” said Marc LeVarn, co-owner. “So, when you look at his art, you can see elements of Kandinsky. You can see elements of Chagall, Matisse, Klimt.”



Havana Nights was the theme of the the Vail Valley Foundation’s 18th Annual Black Diamond Ball.
Attendees danced the night away to the Latin beats of cha cha, rumba and mambo. Attendees also celebrated the awarding of the prestigious 2016 Vail Valley Citizens of the Year Award to Mary Sue and Mike Shannon for their achievements in philanthropy and community building.


Torch Awards

At the third annual Vail Centre’s Torch Awards, which honors the leaders in the community, long-time local, Sheika Gramshammer, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for the work she has done over the years to help improve the community.

“The goal of Vail Centre is to ensure the characteristics of Vail’s founders are passed along, like a torch, from generation to generation,” says Ross Iverson, CEO, Vail Centre. “We feel it is important to recognize those in our community who are demonstrating excellence, providing examples to others and forging a path for our future.”

A philanthropist since arriving in Vail since 1962 with her husband, Pepi, a ski racer and member of the the Austrian National Ski Team, Sheika has been instrumental in organizing many fundraising events for the betterment of the community including holding a picnic to to buy the first baby incubator and a defibrillator for the Vail Valley Medical Center; instrumental in helping to raise money to send a delegation to Australia to lure the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships to Vail; conceiving the Crystal Ski Ball, an event that benefited the Vail Valley Foundation to bring such events as the Championships and World Cup to Vail; holding a fundraiser in the late 90s, at her discotheque, “Sheika’s”, to finance the building of the “people cover” for the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre.

The Vail Centre believes learning is the key building block for the future that elevates careers, organizations and community. Its mission ensures the long-term sustainability of the Vail Valley, helping it prosper within the State of Colorado. It offers university certificates in such subjects as Non-profit Management and Diversity and Inclusive Leadership from Yale School of Management, Duke University, Cornell University and Dartmouth.