Online fundraising effort to help Aspen family with cancer battle |

Online fundraising effort to help Aspen family with cancer battle

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Leigh Power is not a typical stomach-cancer patient, so much so that doctors arriving in her hospital room in Dallas have been known to begin their visit by turning to her to ask where the patient is.

That’s because the doctors are surprised that a 39-year old, apparently healthy woman is dealing with an illness normally associated with frail, elderly men.

Power, the mother of two young children, is an Aspen native who has worked for many years as the buyer and store manager for P.E. 101, and has worked other jobs as well. She was diagnosed Feb. 29 with a form of stomach cancer that most often is found in men older than 70.

Her story has prompted a circle of friends to mount an online effort to raise money to ease the financial strain on Leigh, her husband, Matt, and their children.

Using the online fundraising service,, friends are hoping to raise $25,000 by April 7 to help the Power family, as both Matt and Leigh are unable to work for the time being.

Jessica Lahey, with her husband, Vince, discovered the ChipIn website and put up a page for the Power campaign last weekend.

“I just can’t imagine what they’re going through,” said Lahey on Tuesday, noting that the group of friends found the website after watching a segment of Oprah’s Big Give, which got them thinking about ways to raise money.

Lahey said the response has been “tremendous” from people who know the Powers, and from many who don’t, as is shown by many of the comments displayed on the website.

Leigh and her husband, Matt, a freelance photographer, have relocated to Texas to be near Leigh’s father, a neurosurgeon in Dallas for the past 30 years, and to begin treatment at the renowned M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Meanwhile, Matt’s 67-year old mom is taking care of the kids ” Jack, almost 5, and Tess, 21 months ” and friends said the children were heading down to Texas for a long visit this week.

The Power family’s saga began last fall during a trip to Hawaii, when she began experiencing symptoms that they initially believed were viral, or perhaps bacterial, in nature.

But after they returned to Aspen and Leigh continued to not feel well, successive batteries of tests revealed she has gastroesophageal cancer, which has manifested in several tumors.

The disease apparently blossomed quickly. Blood tests in November showed cancer markers at 45 (they normally hover around 30), but by late February those markers had shot up to 460.

Leigh has begun to undergo some high-potency chemotherapy treatments, according to friends, and the family is maintaining a hopeful outlook.

“They really think they can get the cancer into remission,” said friend Patsy Kurkulis, who has been involved in spreading the word about the ChipIn fundraising effort.

The online fundraising campaign can be found at, and a donation can be made by credit card through the PayPal payment service, which assesses a 3 percent fee for handling transactions. The ChipIn service also allows for donations by check.

According to Jessica Lahey, the ChipIn service does not charge a fee for the use of its website.

The tally of donations was up to nearly $10,000 as of Tuesday at 5 p.m., or one-third of the way to the goal in only a couple of days.

“I just love this town,” Lahey declared, referring to the citizens’ willingness to kick in to help a neighbor.

On a separate front, Aimee Knight, owner of Sugar Babies and Sugar Sweet Clothing stores, will be selling “inspirational books” at her stores, the proceeds from which will go toward helping the Power family, according to Lahey. She said the books also will be available at P.E. 101.

As for Leigh Power and her family, they reportedly did not know of the fundraising effort until it already was up and running. In a note posted on the website, Leigh wrote that she is “in absolute awe over this outpouring from our amazing little mountain town.”

To the organizers and the contributors, she wrote, “Thank you, thank you for your love and relief ” I’m diggin’ in fightin’ tough ” Aspen style.”


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