Summit for Life twice as nice | AspenTimes.com

Summit for Life twice as nice

Joel Stonington

Two organizations split the money that Summit for Life, formally known as Storm the Stars, raises each year, the American Transplant Foundation and the Chris Klug Foundation. The race is a nighttime uphill on Saturday, Dec. 1, this year on Aspen Mountain. The cost is $40 per person, but racers also are asked to raise an additional $160. This year, the weekend features a benefit concert at Club Chelsea on Friday, Nov. 30, and a party at the top of Ajax after the race. Prizes go to the top three male and female finishers and top three fundraisers. The Chris Klug Foundation was founded by Aspenite Chris Klug, who is the first ever transplant recipient to win an Olympic medal. Klug speaks around the country on donor issues, promoting awareness for organ and tissue donation. “I was on the waiting list for a liver transplant for about six years,” Klug said. “I recognize the great need for organ donors. Unfortunately, the need the is only getting greater. About 17 people die each day waiting.”Klug is on the board of the American Transplant Foundation. Based in Denver, the foundation was formed two years ago to coordinate collaborative efforts between various organ donor groups. For the moment, the American Transplant Foundation is focused on endowing a chair of transplant surgery at University Hospital in Denver. It is set to give the first $250,000 installment of that endowment by the end of December. “We have one of the best transplant centers in the country,” said Heidi Heltzel, executive director of the American Transplant Foundation. “What really draws talent and dollars is when there is a commitment in the form of an endowment. That will bring additional dollars to the science part of it, and help merge the clinical research and the clinical application.”The majority of the money for the endowment is coming from private donations. The foundation does not receive any money from grants, but a significant chunk is coming from money raised at the uphill. Other money from the American Transplant Foundation is spent on registering more people to be donors. Currently, Heltzel pointed out, it’s hard for people to register unless it’s at the Department of Motor Vehicles when getting a driver’s license. She would like to see people able to register when filling out tax forms, on the Internet or when getting a fishing license. Mainly, Heltzel would just like more people registering so that the wait list of people needing donors starts going down, instead of increasing. “The registry and the supply has been stagnant over the last 20 years, but demand has been going up,” Heltzel said. “Last year, we had 95,000 people, and now it’s over 98,000. You can literally watch the numbers ticking up.”Both organizations have extremely low overhead. The Chris Klug Foundation just recently hired a part-time executive director at $20,000 a year, and Heltzel is bringing down a modest $24,792 for a 40-hour week at the foundation. “It’s not about the money,” Heltzel said. “I’m doing it because it’s such an incredible opportunity to provide a resource to help so many others. I’ve become passionate about it as I’ve learned more about needs in the community. I’ve met so many amazing people in the process.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com