Community rallies to help Crawford family
December 25, 2011
How to help
Donations can be made to the Kimberly Crawford Medical Expenses fund at the Wells Fargo Bank in Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs — Asking for help just isn't their nature. Maybe that's why Kim and Gary Crawford have struggled with Kim's health problems for more than two years on their own. Maybe that's why the family has turned down friends' requests to hold fundraisers. And maybe that's why — even now — the couple is hesitant to share their story with the community they have lived in, loved and supported for generations.
"I've been battling a series of serious autoimmune diseases and Fibromyalgia for more than two years," Kim said recently. "A normal healthy body will produce antibodies to defend and protect the body against such things as viruses and bacteria. In those with autoimmune disorders, your body builds up antibodies that attack itself.
"In my case, we know it is attacking internal organs and disrupting their function. Gary and I have kept all of this close to the vest. Our friends and neighbors began noticing what was going on with me and quietly conspired to do something tremendous that will really make a difference."
That something was a fundraiser organized by a small group of close friends that included Kathryn Elkins, Julie Andrews and Sage Price. Elkins, who is one of Gary's former athletes and a close family friend, was the one who got to call Gary and inform him about the benefit a few days before it took place.
"I called him on the phone and said 'Hey, Gary we are holding a benefit and all Kim and you need to do is show up,'" Elkins recalled recently. "I told him we were going to do it even if they didn't show up, but that it would be nice if they could make an appearance."
The fundraiser was Nov. 18 at the Howelsen Hill Lodge and was a huge success thanks to an overwhelming community response. Elkins said the group wanted to do something before Thanksgiving, and she was blown away by the response after making just a few phone calls only a couple of days before the event.
She said dozens of businesses stepped up and donated items for the auction and gave food and beverages for the party. More than 400 people came out to show their support for Kim, who works as an administrative assistant at the Doak Walker Care Center, and Gary, who grew up in Steamboat Springs and is a longtime Nordic combined ski coach with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
Gary said he was caught off guard when Elkins called him.
"I was speechless," Gary said. "I'm used to helping out when someone needs it, but it's different being on the receiving end. We just want to let the community know how incredibly thankful we are."
The benefit will enable the Crawfords to pursue additional medical tests and treatments that they had not been able to afford. It also will allow access to treatments that help alleviate the pain and other disabling symptoms. It should give Kim a much better quality of life.
"To date, I have not responded to traditional treatments. It has been and continues to be a challenging journey to determine the best path of treatment for managing the diseases and the symptoms," Kim said.
"Gary and I believe in leading the best life possible: making the best decisions for our lifestyle, making the best, educated decisions in terms of our health providers and remaining strong spiritually.
"Dealing with autoimmune diseases is a lifelong battle. It's essential to remain positive against adversity, which we strive to do."
Gary said the money raised at the benefit also will help cover the family's ongoing medical expenses, which have been mounting since Kim first started showing symptoms following an unrelated back surgery more than two years ago.
"It's hard to put into words how grateful we are to be living in a community that is so caring and giving. While there are way too many people to thank by name, we want to specifically mention Kathryn Elkins, Julie Andrews and Sage Price. We also want to thank all of the businesses and individuals who helped and made donations to the silent auction," Kim wrote in an email. "In our minds, this is a pivotal event in our lives."
Despite being in pain 24 hours per day, Kim continues to work at the Doak Walker Care Center. In recent months, she has lost more than 30 pounds despite taking powerful steroids that normally result in weight gain.
The couple recently traveled to Denver looking for answers and hope in her battle against the rare disease. They returned without a clear path but said that they continue to remain positive.
"The support of our friends, family and the community keeps us positive and strong. This benefit was a miracle in our lives. We know there are more miracles to come," Kim said.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com