David Freshman plays Saturday at a post-race event for Cody's Challenge, a randonee ski race that helped raise money for the Cody St. John foundation. St. John, a 29-year-old Steamboat ski patroler who died after a car accident two years ago, donated five organs. Freshman received his heart.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

David Freshman plays Saturday at a post-race event for Cody's Challenge, a randonee ski race that helped raise money for the Cody St. John foundation. St. John, a 29-year-old Steamboat ski patroler who died after a car accident two years ago, donated five organs. Freshman received his heart.

Cody's Challenge randonee ski race a rousing success

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Top finishers

Cody's Challenge Randonee race

Men

1. Kyle Lawton 1:46:51

2. Jeff Keller 1:46:52

3. Gavin Malia 1:46:54

Women

1. Liz Bristle 2:10:37

2. Karen Tremaine 2:13:28

3. Becky Kuhl 2:17:39

For Kyle Lawton, it was an important day that started with what seemed like disaster.

For David Freshman, it was an emotional day that began with a trip, and for Candy St. John, it was a potentially tough day than began with high hopes.

As the sun set across from Steamboat Ski Area hours later, all would agree: the day turned out almost perfectly.

Teamwork pays off

Lawton spent two days mapping a course and several months dreaming the details for the Cody's Challenge Randonee Endurance Race, an event meant to recognize his friend and co-worker Cody St. John, who died in 2007 from injuries sustained in a car accident.

He woke up Saturday morning and his plans were in ruins.

The gondola and the Thunderhead Express chairlift at the ski area were closed as strong winds blasted Mount Werner. A randonee race sends competitors uphill on skis, so a lift isn't necessarily needed, but Lawton couldn't even get to the starting line, scheduled to be at the top of Thunderhead.

"So, we had to start at the bottom of Heavenly Daze," he said. "It actually made it easier on me. It took the stress out of it because all we could do is improvise."

A few quick changes to the course kept everything on track, and the race went off without a problem, especially for Lawton.

He won the event, edging out a group of skiers he banded together with to break trail through the deep, fresh snow.

It was a performance he said St. John, a friend from the Steamboat Ski Patrol, would have been proud of, even though he always opted for a snowboard instead of the skis the racers turned to.

"It was teamwork that made it happen," he said. "Cody would have liked everything. Anything Cody did, he did with the best of his ability.

"He was excellent at everything."

A worthy cause

Candy St. John also thought her son would have loved the festivities.

A post-race party kicked off Saturday afternoon at the Bear River Bar & Grill. Cody's friends and family members from all across the country traveled for the event.

For $20, they got to eat as much chili as they could, throw back a few drinks and listen to live music.

All the money is being raised for a foundation in Cody's name that hopes to help ski patrollers with dreams similar to those Cody had when he died.

The wreck happened as he was on his way to the University of Wyoming for a nursing program orientation.

"Cody left a wonderful impression. That's why everyone's here," Candy said. "It's a great day. A very positive day."

The event helped the foundation toward its goal of raising $100,000. Combined with a summer bike ride in Wyoming and a benefit clam bake in St. John's native Maryland, Candy said she's seen her son's spirit carry on.

Cody's girlfriend at the time of the accident agreed.

"It's been two years since he died, so we decided, let's do something," said Katrene Lewis, who helped some in the planning of Saturday's event.

She didn't compete, but she caught up with many friends. She served as a ski patroller in Steamboat last year in memory of St. John.

"He would have loved it," she said about the day. "He would have loved everyone coming together - the people from the Ski Patrol, from the East Coast and from all around Colorado."

More than a memory

Cody St. John never knew David Freshman, and until six months ago, Freshman had never heard of St. John, either.

But Freshman's extensive search eventually revealed that it was St. John who had saved his life two years ago. Five of St. John's organs were donated after his death, and Freshman received his heart.

A professional musician, the 52-year-old Aurora resident picked up a guitar and played with the band Saturday. He broke away and ripped through guitar solos and came off the stage and played while he danced in front of the crowd.

"This is overwhelming," he said, looking across the bar, packed with St. John's loved ones. "This gives me an understanding where this heart I have came from."

He played a song he'd written in memory of the 29-year-old snowboarding ski patroller who, even two years after his death, could fill a room.

"This is about Cody's spirit," Freshman said, introducing his work. "You all know about his spirit, and now, so do I. I'm talking to you because of it."

- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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