Steamboat Springs Chad James admitted that when his crew arrived in Austin, Texas, for last weekend's Ride for the Roses, there was some trepidation.
The previous two weeks had beat up Lance Armstrong. He’d been cited as a kingpin of the most elaborate sports doping sagas in history. He stepped down as chairman of Livestrong and most of his sponsors had cut ties with him.
But when James, along with four other Steamboat couples, attended the weekend designed to thank the most dedicated fundraisers, he walked away from the event invigorated by what Livestrong stands for and by future possibilities.
“When we got there, clearly all the Lance stuff had happened,” said James, who is the chairman of Steamboat’s Ride 4 Yellow. “The foundation itself was going through it real time and responding to it to real time. We sat down and had a private meeting with (Livestrong CEO) Doug Ulman. He said, ‘There are no 800-pound gorillas in the room. I’ll answer any question you have.’ He sat with us for an an hour and a half and answered questions.”
And what was the biggest question answered?
“How does Lance’s decision to step down affect the foundation?” James said. “There were 12 or 13 sponsors that had dropped Lance. None had dropped the foundation. They are still strongly in support of the Livestrong foundation.”
James, along with his wife, Sabrina, attended the 15th anniversary celebration with Darren and Jennifer Robinson, Kerry and Jennifer Shea, Dave and Aimee Nagel and Casey and Amanda Barnett.
Despite all the controversy surrounding Armstrong, the event was a hit, they said. In addition to a 65-mile ride and gala, the group sat down with other fundraising organizations to percolate ideas.
The 4 Yellow Foundation, which features the Steamboat events Ride 4 Yellow and Ski 4 Yellow, was honored during the gala as one of the top fundraisers in the country.
Since the inception of the Steamboat events in 2010, the two have raised $1.125 million, with half of the proceeds going to Livestrong and the other half granted to Yampa Valley cancer initiatives.
“It was very inspiring,” Kerry Shea said. “Last week wasn’t short in terms of distractions. But what it did for me and my wife, Jen, and it really resonated, the foundation is larger than Lance Armstrong. This is about cancer and survivorship.”
Despite the levity from the weekend, James and Shea weren’t sure how the Armstrong firestorm would affect the local events. Ski 4 Yellow registration opens in December.
Regardless, the group came back ready to move forward.
“I’m sure that people may reconsider where their dollars go to support cancer. I can’t speak to what they’ll do,” James said. “Having attended and seen the level of commitment out there, we’re recommitted to our mission here to raise a couple $100,000 a year to kick cancer’s ass.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com