Jewelry designers show will benefit Challenge Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Jewelry designers show will benefit Challenge Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen Times

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN Ariane Zurchers impulse to give comes from both above and below her on the family genealogical charts.The charitable instinct has been embedded in Zurcher from her ancestors. She is a granddaughter of the late Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, whose contributions to Aspen the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the International Design Conference in Aspen and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies transformed a sleepy former mining town into a cultural hotspot.My grandmother the biggest lesson she taught me is generosity, said Zurcher, a New York jewelry designer whose trunk show at the Limelight Lodge, Sunday and Monday, Dec. 28-29, will benefit Challenge Aspen. (Zurcher will give a minimum of 10 percent of sales proceeds to the local nonprofit organization.) Ask anyone who knew her and within five minutes theyll mention her generosity. That was so important to her, that idea of giving back.The 48-year-old Zurcher, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area but spent plenty of time in Aspen, also had the habit of doing good deeds instilled in her by her parents: Paula, and the late Victor Zurcher. I remember my father and mother taking us on camping trips, and theyd make us pick up other peoples trash, she said. Id be grumbling, whining. But theyd say, you always must leave a place better than how you found it.Zurcher is learning a different sort of lesson from her daughter. Emma, 6, was diagnosed several years ago with autism. Zurcher gave up a career in advertising to devote herself to her daughter before taking up jewelry design, first as a creative outlet, and more recently as a business.Zurcher thought she was intimately familiar with Aspens cultural and nonprofit landscape. But it wasnt till some three years ago that she discovered Challenge Aspen an organization founded in 1995 to, as its slogan puts it, make possibilities for people with disabilities. Zurcher and her husband, Richard Long, an entrepreneur and writer, enrolled Emma in Challenge Aspens ski classes. The ski program, as Zurcher sees it, has several benefits. For one, many autistic children crave extreme physical sensations. They have sensory issues, and they respond well to extreme movement, physical pressure, going very fast, said Zurcher, who also has an 8-year-old son, Nick. So skiing, horse-back riding …Skiing also gives Emma something of a social experience, a way for her to interact with the world in the company of people who are accustomed to dealing with physical and mental challenges. Zurcher has previous experience in seeing the way that people treat the disabled. Her father, at the age of 49, suffered a debilitating horseback riding accident that severed a vertebrae and put him in a coma. He recovered, but a long-term effect of the incident was an inability to generate new muscle mass. By the age of 69, he needed to use a wheelchair.I watched how he was treated, said Zurcher. No one meant to be mean, but people just didnt know how to respond. And he hated it, became increasingly isolated, I think. We as human beings, whenever we see the unfamiliar, we respond with fear, with trepidation or caution. We dont want to, but we dont know how to behave. I see it with my daughter and I saw it with my father.Zurcher has arranged for Challenge Aspen to have a staff member on hand both days of her jewelry show to help spread the word about what the organization offers. If Zurcher herself didnt even know of the existence of Challenge Aspen, she figures that many others dont know the breadth of their programs. Challenge Aspen serves adults as well as children; offers activities in winter (skiing, ice-skating and more) and summer (a summer camp focused on both arts and recreation). Their C.A.M.O. program for Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities is designed for injured military veterans.Zurcher is also designing a one-of-kind necklace for Challenge Aspens summer fund-raiser, the Vince Gill & Amy Grant Golf Classic, and she is donating a piece of jewelry for a Challenge Aspen event to be held in June, in Washington, D.C.Challenge Aspen is providing opportunities to be in the world, be active in the world, in a way they otherwise wouldnt be able to, said Zurcher. With the people coming back from the wars, theyre welcoming them. Theyre saying, Lets go skiing.Zurcher has no doubt that such activity, both physical and social, has made a difference for her daughter.After Emmas skiing, every time we bring her back to New York her therapists say, Wow, what did you do? said Zurcher. Theres an uptick in her language. It happens every time, so absolutely, theres a connection.stewart@aspentimes.com

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