Shepard to share message of tolerance during Gay Ski Week | AspenTimes.com

Shepard to share message of tolerance during Gay Ski Week

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Judy Shepard, whose son, Matthew, was killed because he was gay, will come to January’s Gay Ski Week in Aspen to spread her message of tolerance.

Matthew Shepard was 21 when he was beaten and left for dead in Laramie, Wyo., where he attended the University of Wyoming. The two men convicted for his murder claimed Shepard had flirted with them at a bar.

When he died a few days later in October 1998, a national outcry sparked calls for hate-crime legislation. On Tuesday, Jan. 21, Judy Shepard will be in Aspen signing copies of her new book, “A Face in the Crowd,” which depicts people with different messages of diversity.

Aspen will be one of Shepard’s first stops on her national publicity tour to promote the book, said Brenda Fraser, executive director of the Aspen Gay and Lesbian Community Fund.

After Matthew’s death, Judy Shepard began traveling the country as the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which promotes diversity and tolerance.

“We want to put out the message that we care about more than putting on a good party,” Fraser said of the week that typically features plenty of skiing, dance parties and social mixers. “In the past we have raised a lot of money, and now we’re offering more programs and developing our vision for the next two or three years.”

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One of the community fund’s Youth of Vision Scholarships will be named after Matthew Shepard during the ski week. The scholarship will be available for high school and undergraduate students all over the state of Colorado.

The community fund works with the Gay/Lesbian/Straight Educator’s Network to get the word out about the scholarship.

The first annual “Vision Dinner” will feature Judy Shepard as well as Esera Tuaolo, a former NFL star who recently came out on national television.

“What we’re trying to do this year at the fund is even more ambitious than in the past,” Fraser said. “Now we can say we’re more than the ski week ? we work all year with the scholarship program. Ski week is one of the many things we’re doing all year, but we have a big push to get more serious and more community-minded.”

In addition, a panel discussion will be held on the Monday of the ski week, Jan. 19-26, on “Family Rights ? Gay Adoption,” according to the schedule posted at http://www.gayskiweek.com.

The Aspen Gay and Lesbian Film Festival will also feature “Out in the Cold,” a documentary about homeless gay kids that was co-funded by the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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