Steamboat Springs Gary Crawford knows firsthand that some decisions and some days are harder than others.
On Friday, Crawford announced he would be leaving the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club after more than 20 years.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Crawford said about pulling the group of Nordic combined athletes he currently coaches in for a special meeting to announce that he was leaving.
“I’m really going to miss being on the hill and coaching the kids,” Crawford said.
They will miss him, too. Young Nordic combined skier Decker Dean said Crawford and Todd Wilson are a big reason he’s competing in Nordic combined.
“He wasn’t always 100 percent serious, and he was able to teach us what we needed to know, and he knew how to keep it fun,” Dean said. “Not only was he a great coach and mentor, but more importantly, he was a good friend.”
Last week, Crawford, along with his wife, Kim, made the decision to move to Cocoa Beach, Fla., where Kim Crawford’s family lives. Kim has been battling a series of autoimmune diseases and fibromyalgia the past several years, and doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have advised her that moving to a warmer location at sea level would help improve her condition.
The couple had laughed off the suggestion of leaving Steamboat Springs at first, but after pursuing all their medical options with limited results, they have decided that relocating is the only option.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Kim Crawford said about leaving Steamboat Springs.
But Gary Crawford was quick to add that it’s the right decision.
“We know it’s right,” he said. “I know that Kim can enjoy a quality of life that she just can’t have here. This is our only choice.”
Gary Crawford is well-known in Steamboat Springs. He grew up on the slopes of Howelsen Hill and was a star on the football field at track at Steamboat Springs High School. He skied for Western State College from 1975 to 1977 before leaving to train full time with the U.S. Ski Team. Crawford represented the United States at the 1980 and 1988 Olympics, and his family leaves behind a long legacy of skiing in Steamboat Springs dating back to his father, Marvin Crawford, who helped start Steamboat Ski Area.
Crawford has helped coach hometown Olympic athletes including Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher, Brett Camerota, Eric Camerota, Randy Weber, Brendan Doran, Alan Alborn, Matt Dayton and Clint Jones.
“What a great guy. We are so blessed to be associated with a guy like Gary,” said Wilson, the Winter Sports Club Nordic director. “He has a great sense of humility. He is not in it for his own ego, and he doesn’t do it for himself. He has a passion, and it’s been really neat to see how many lives he has touched and to see the difference he has made in so many lives.”
Kim Crawford also is a familiar face around town despite keeping a low profile the past few years because of her condition. She works as an administrative assistant at the Doak Walker Care Center and also has taught at GrandKids Child Care Center and been a substitute teacher at the high school.
“She’s been the face of the Doak Walker Center for the past seven years,” Gary Crawford said. “She’s always there to greet people with a smile on her face. No one would ever know. She’s so strong. She just puts on a happy face and pushes forward.”
The couple said they have tried to avoid this day but already have seen the improvements in her condition when they visit family in Florida. The Crawfords will leave behind the community they love and their jobs. It’s a trade-off they are willing to make so Kim Crawford can do things she can’t in Steamboat Springs.
“I’m looking forward to walking on the beach with Gary,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a better quality of life.”
The couple said they owe a lot to the community of Steamboat Springs for the support they have shown the past few years. A fundraiser two years ago helped Kim Crawford travel to the Cleveland Clinic and has paid for many of her treatments that are not covered by insurance.
“It changed our lives,” she said about the fundraiser. “I can’t believe how incredible this community has been.”
The couple plan to live with Kim Crawford’s mother while pursuing job opportunities. Gary Crawford is hoping to be reinstated as a PGA professional. He previously worked as an assistant and head professional at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort for many years. He also is looking at an opportunity with the YMCA or Boys & Girls Club as a mentor.
Despite recent improvements, he said his wife still is facing a number of medical challenges in the future. For those who would like to help, donations can be made to the Kim Crawford Medical Account at Wells Fargo Bank in Steamboat Springs.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966
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