Steamboat’s outstanding philanthropists are celebrated
July 12, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For Kent and Katie Eriksen, Tour de Steamboat started with a question, and the popular event has now grown into a huge fundraiser that supports four different nonprofits in Steamboat Springs.
"It's pretty cool to see what the Tour de Steamboat has done," Katie Eriksen (formerly Lindquist) said. "For me, philanthropy means you have enough money to write a check and get the write-off. That's not a position that I've ever been in, but I see a need for our community to come together and support the organizations that support us and our lifestyle and our needs in the community."
Ericksen's mindset — that desire to give back — took the spotlight Tuesday night as the Yampa Valley Community Foundation honored its picks for Philanthropists of the Year during the 2018 Celebration of Philanthropy on Tuesday night.
The Ericksons were honored as Individual Philanthropists of the Year. They were joined by Amanda Perlman, who was named Youth Philanthropist of the Year, and Central Park Management, which was honored as Business Philanthropist of the Year.
Rolling to meet the need
When Kent Ericksen arrived in Steamboat Springs in 1974 he said he had about 50 cents to his name. He used that money to warm up his sleeping bag at the local laundry mat. But in the years that followed, he started a bike shop and a bike ride he called the Tour de Steamboat.
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The ride was an off-and-on event, but it wasn't until it was reborn and shifted gears a few years ago that it found a new path to help others. The change came after a participant asked who the race was raising money for, and Katie struggled to come up with an answer.
"That moment was when everything changed," she said. "We started to look at the bigger picture, and it took off from there.”
Katie and business partner Brad Cusenbary revitalized the event in 2004 after a long hiatus as they attempted to bring several organized cycling events to the Yampa Valley, including the Tour de Steamboat and 24 hours of Steamboat.
In 2005, the ride became a fundraiser and brought in money for Livestrong Foundation to support cancer patients and their families. The ride then became a fundraiser for the Sunshine Kids Foundation in 2008 and raised $20,000. In a period of five years, the event raised more then $200,000 for that foundation.
Today, the annual event, which is slated for July 21, has a board of directors who direct the event, and it benefits four local nonprofits including Partners in Routt County, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide and Routt County Riders. Those four organizations also get together and select another organization that also gets some support.
Katie said the fundraiser’s success is fueled by that board and an army of volunteers who come out each year to make the event happen.
“We were quite humbled," Katie said about being honored. "It's easier for us to give in muscle power rather than it is for money. That's what we have to give, and it is contagious how much you can raise when you pitch in and get other people to pitch in.”
The leadership and staff at Central Park Management have been giving back for years, but owner Curt Weiss said it feels good to be recognized for the effort.
"We have been doing this for years, but it nice to be honored for something that you do automatically," Weiss said. "Between giving money and in-kind service in storage units, we donate to well over 50 organizations in town."
Weiss said Central Park Management is a small, family-run company, and he is proud that his business reflects his own family’s values.
"We have a staff of 25 people and a lot of those people are sitting on boards or doing in-kind service and stuff like that," Weiss said "It's something our whole staff does, not just us."
He believes giving back is a big reason why Steamboat is a great place to live and was a great place to raise his four children.
"It's real important to support your community however you can. That's who we are as a community, and it's real important," Weiss said. "It's an honor to be a part of this community."
Weiss first came to Steamboat Springs in 1971 and then moved here permanently in 1973 with his wife, Mary. He started running Central Park Plaza, which got its start as Funco, 40 years ago.
Setting an example
When Amanda Perlman, this year's Youth Philanthropist of the Year, enters the University of Arizona as a freshman this fall, she’ll leave behind a lot of things, including the snow of Steamboat Springs, but one thing she’ll take with her is a continued desire to give back to the community where she lives.
"My parents had a big influence on why I want to volunteer and be involved in the community," Perlman said. "They made it an expectation that I was involved, but then, from there, I found things that I was passionate about, and I wanted to contribute on my own."
Perlman served as president of Rotary Interact Club, has made service trips to Agua Pieta, Mexico, and volunteered at homeless shelters in Denver. But she found her passion this year as a senior at Steamboat Springs High School where she inspired others to take part in the “Women's March on Washington” and helped to lead a student-lead walkout to support students in Parkland after a shooting at that high school in Florida.
"In the past, I volunteered to work with clubs and other organizations, but I think leading something that was a little more political and controversial made me more passionate about the things that I do believe in," Perlman said.