WORDS: Erin English
On April 20, Colorado's Sheep Creek avalanche claimed the lives of five backcountry skiers and snowboarders, and ever since that tragic day, the fiancé of one of the victims has found solace in an unlikely activity—building a new nonprofit from the ground up.
The mission of Elizabeth Lamphere's organization, called the International Avalanche Nest-Egg (IAN), is two-fold: To provide immediate and long-term financial support for the children and families of avalanche victims, and to foster a community spirit surrounding this type of tragedy.
"I started thinking of a name for it a couple of days after the funeral," says Elizabeth, who lost her fiancé Ian Lamphere in the slide. "With a daughter to take care of, I am not able to go through a normal grieving process. This is how I am coping, putting my energy into something positive."
The idea for the nonprofit came from Ian, three days before he died.
"It was a comment literally made out of the blue," Lamphere said. "I was sitting in the living room and Ian was in our office loft and he said, 'Bubbee, I have a great idea. We should start a nonprofit to benefit the children of avalanche victims.' There was no further discussion."
As fate would have it, on April 20, Elizabeth and her nine-month-old daughter Madelyn became prime candidates for the very nonprofit Ian envisioned. Family members raised money for Elizabeth and Madelyn through Indiegogo.com in the weeks after Ian passed away, so Madelyn now has a small nest-egg of her own. But recognizing that not all children left behind will be as fortunate, Elizabeth—along with friends and family—set about creating a formal nonprofit.
The immediate plan is to help families with expenses that accrue in the first six months after an avalanche fatality, such as plane tickets for relative visits, funeral fees, food and housing costs. Over time, Elizabeth also hopes to develop a secondary program that will address long-term needs, like college fund contributions.
Now that IAN's branding is in place and an official launch party has been held, the focus for Elizabeth is on developing protocols for her nonprofit and getting the word out. She will speak to various organizations in the months ahead, such as the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, and is planning a presence at the SIA Snow Show in January 2014. IAN will primarily be run out of Vermont, where the nonprofit is incorporated.
With an average of 150 avalanche fatalities reported each year across the globe and backcountry travel becoming increasingly more popular, Elizabeth imagines that there will be a need for IAN heading into the foreseeable future.
"We are not looking to discourage backcountry skiing, rather, we want people to know that if the unthinkable accident does occur, that children and families will be cared for," Elizabeth said. "Through the financial and emotional cushion of the Nest-Egg, we hope that those left behind will be able to heal without the stress of intense financial worries surrounding their basic needs."
If you would like to donate to the International Avalanche Nest-Egg, click here.