Fletcher, foundation thriving after USSA award
May 20, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Bryan Fletcher had skiing.
He said that's what he turned to more than 20 years ago at age 7, when his childhood cancer was finally declared to be in remission.
"Coming out of it, I was already involved in skiing," he said. "As I started to get healthier, I just skied more and more. When I was declared in remission, I hit the ground running and didn't look back."
He skied all the way to the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team, to a World Cup victory in 2012 and, in 2014, to the Winter Olympics.
Now, the Steamboat Springs-born skier wants to make sure other children facing similar diagnoses have something, as well, and that's the motivation behind the charity Fletcher co-founded last summer, ccThrive.
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The goal, he said, is to reach children coming away from cancer — the survivors — help them get back on their feet and show them all those dreams they had before their diagnoses are still within reach.
Fletcher's charity work was recognized last week by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association at the annual Chairman's Awards Dinner during USSA Congress in Park City, Utah. Fletcher was awarded the Team Athletes Giving Back Award.
In addition to the award, ccThrive was gifted $5,000 to help with its work.
"That's awesome," Fletcher said. "That will really make a huge difference this summer."
Fletcher runs ccThrive with Andrew Shamis, a Vermont father who stumbled across the story of Fletcher's battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia while Fletcher was competing at the 2014 Olympics. Shamis' own son, Gavin Shamis, found luge, where Fletcher found skiing.
Starting a charity, as it turns out, isn't easy, especially for an athlete still trying to be competitive on the world stage.
Any free time Fletcher has is mostly used either for training or working to earn money for another season of competition.
ccThrive, though, has worked its way into his life.
Fundraising hasn't been easy, either, in part because it's not the only thing Fletcher raises funds for. It takes plenty of help to finance the U.S. Nordic combined Ski Team, and he's reluctant to go to the same wells for ccThrive.
Still, the organization pieced together $15,000 in its first year, and the money that came as part of the USSA award will be very welcome.
"It's a challenge, definitely the sacrifice," he said. "It's definitely a little backwards. Obviously, most people gain their wealth first, then run a charity, but I figured, 'Why not? There's a need for it. If I can do a little good, that's better than nothing at all.'"
The goal, Fletcher said, is to find a way to consistently reach children who've survived cancer and are ready for the next step in their lives.
There are many charities that deal with other aspects of the process, but he and Shamis saw a hole here.
"Whether it's athletics, academics or whatever it may be, we really feel the kids need stories to aspire too," he said. "Before they got into their treatment, they had a dream, and when they come out, they may not know what that dream is, or it may have been crushed by the years of treatment. We want to help those kids pursue their dreams again and support them as they do it."