Outdoors blog

Super heroes raise $150,000 for Hank (and others) at Schweitzer

The finish of the 24 Hours for Hank fundraising event at Schweitzer Mountain Resort on March 31, 2012. (Courtesy photo)
The finish of the 24 Hours for Hank fundraising event at Schweitzer Mountain Resort on March 31, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

SKIING -- Nearly 130 skiers and snowboarders ages 5-74 spearheaded the effort to raise a record $150,000 in the 4th annual “24 Hours of Schweitzer” last weekend.

While an ill-timed storm and gusty winds pounded the resort and forced closure of part of the mountain during the event, the participants compiled a staggering 7.06 million vertical feet of downhilling to bring in money from pledges.

All the money and effort is devoted to boosting cystinosis research. The effort is inspired by the Sandpoint-based family and friends of Hank Sturgis.  See details here.

24 Hours champion and record holder Matt Gillis wore a Superman outfit as he successfully defended his title, completing 143 runs in the 24 hours, just barely beating Eric Jensen of Sandpoint -- by 15 seconds!

  • We're checking out the rumors that Jensen is planning to wear a diaper next year to make up the difference.

But it will be tough to thoroughly dethrone Gillis, a master skier and aerial performer, who individually raised a whopping record $33,000.

Read on for details about the event and the other amazing players.

Participants ages 5 to 74 from Sandpoint, Spokane, Ellensburg, Issaquah and around the region, and as far away as California, Colorado, Oregon and New York took to the slopes with a mission to complete the most runs possible in 24 hours straight. Mother Nature, however, had plans of her own. Gusty winds and pounding rain closed most of Schweitzer Mountain Resort for the day and caused a 7½ hour delay before participants’ runs were officially counted.

Once counting was underway, skiers and boarders made up for lost time, logging an impressive 7,774 runs or 7,064,310 million vertical feet in just 16 ½ hours. The all-day, all-night ski event concluded with an auction dinner/awards party attended by 375 people, with many dressed in costume to celebrate the event’s “Hank’s Heroes: Mission Possible” super-hero theme. In all, a record $150,000 was raised at one of the top cystinosis fundraisers in the country, bringing the 24 Hours for Hank Foundation’s fundraising total to more than $450,000 in just three-and-a-half years. The fourth-annual event was held in honor of five-year-old Hank Sturgis of Sandpoint, who has the rare, fatal disease cystinosis that affects only 500 people nationwide.

This year’s race was down to the wire, with three-time defending champion Matt Gillis sealing his fourth victory after narrowly edging Eric Jensen by 15 seconds to finish with 143 runs. Gillis also individually raised a record $33,000, earning repeat honors as the event’s top fundraiser and doubling his personal fundraising total from last year’s event.

In the four-person team category, Team “Hank E Panky” took first place with 501 runs, while Team “Fill the Bank for Hank” placed second with 480 runs. Team “Blue Eyed Bombers” logged 381 runs to earn first-place honors for the second year in the three-person team category. Finan Lund, age 12 of Sandpoint, was the top finisher of kids 12 and under with 126 runs, and Sam Timmons, age 8 of Denver, Colo., was the top youth fundraiser with $5,223 in pledges. Other standouts included Slate Fragoso, age 7 of Sandpoint, who logged 71 runs and raised $3,544, and Crosby Schmidt, age 5 of Sandpoint, who raised $ 2,425 and completed 43 official runs.

Reporters Mark Peterson, Kris Crocker and Robyn Nance from KXLY-TV in Spokane gave new meaning to the term “media mogul” after carving 40 runs down the mountain and raising more than $2,000 toward the cause. Other participants included 17-year-old Paul Flerchinger of Spokane Valley, who skied in honor of his 8-year-old cousin Tina Flerchinger of Lewistown, Idaho, who also suffers from cystinosis. Paul’s three-man team from Gonzaga Prep completed 268 runs.

Although runs weren’t counted on the official intermediate course until 4 p.m., nearly all participants skied over half the day on smaller slopes amid driving rain and wind, with some never venturing inside. The weather didn’t dampen participants’ enthusiasm or creativity, with many practicing synchronized skiing, playing tag on skis, and skiing backwards to keep motivated throughout the day.

“We were continually amazed at the incredible endurance, dedication and spirit demonstrated day and night throughout the event, in spite of the very challenging weather conditions. Every participant is a super hero in our book,” said Brian Sturgis, Hank’s dad and one of the event organizers. “We are more determined than ever in our fight against cystinosis, and thank everyone – participants, donors, volunteers, sponsors, supporters, local businesses, Schweitzer Mountain Resort and its employees, and our family and friends – for helping us move closer to a cure in the race against this devastating disease.”

Nearly 150 leading businesses and individuals from Sandpoint and around the region contributed to the auction dinner and awards party, including more than 125 live and silent auction items and prizes donated for the event. A Denver Broncos jersey autographed by football star Tim Tebow was the top item up for bid after fetching $2,000.

The event benefits 24 Hours for Hank, a Sandpoint foundation established to raise money for cystinosis research and treatment. Funds raised locally are contributed to the national Cystinosis Research Foundation to help find a cure for this extremely rare, genetic disease that slowly destroys every organ in the body including the kidneys, liver, eyes, muscles, thyroid and brain.

Highlights and Award Winners from this year’s event include:

Number of skiers/snowboarders who participated: 128, ages 5 to 74 (37 women; 91 men; includes 8 youth under age 10)

Number of teams: 30

Number of solo participants: 21

Total number of runs completed: 7,774

Total vertical feet covered: 7,064,310

Total dollars raised (through skiathon and auction): $150,000 and counting.

  • Donations are still being accepted and can be made online or via the mail. For more information, call 208-610-2131 or visit www.24hoursforhank.org.


· Solo:

o First Place: Matt Gillis of Sandpoint, who completed 143 runs. (won by 15 seconds)

o Second Place: Eric Jensen of Sandpoint, who completed 143 runs.

o Third Place: Donnie Bryntesen of Sandpoint, who completed 141 runs.

· Three-person team:

o First Place: Team “Blue Eyed Bombers,” which completed 381 runs. Team members included Rebecca Wolf, Korah Quinn and Angie Quinn of Liberty Lake and Sandpoint.

o Second Place: Team “Anti-CityFi,” which completed 361 runs. Team members included Mac Miltz, Dante Rumore and Cory Lindholm of Sandpoint.

o Third Place: Team “Frontier Communications,” which completed 328 runs. Team members included Jacob Bult, Ryan Moore and Chris Blayne of Sandpoint.

· Four-person team:

o First Place: Team “Hank E Panky,” which completed 501 runs. Team members included Jeremy Deming, Mark Hammon, Wade Jacklin and Rick Knott of Coeur d’Alene.

o Second Place: Team “Fill the Bank for Hank,” which completed 480 runs Team members included Jen Forsyth, Kim Loosemore, Katherine Nathane and Suzanne Pattinson of Sandpoint.

o Third Place: Team “Camo,” which completed 425 runs. Team members included Matt Williams, Casey Young, Brent Otter and Andy Gion of Sandpoint.

Top individual fundraiser – Over age 18: First Place: Matt Gillis of Sandpoint, who raised $33,000 in pledges; Second Place: Scott Tunison of Spokane, who raised more than $3,400

Top individual fundraiser – Under age 18: First Place: Sam Timmons, age 8 of Denver, Colo., who raised $5,223; Second Place: Slate Fragoso, age 7 of Sandpoint, who raised $3,544; Third Place: Crosby Schmidt, age 5 of Sandpoint, who raised $2,425

Top team fundraiser: Team “Hank E Panky” of Coeur d’Alene, which raised nearly $5,000

Most runs – kids 12 and under:First Place: Finan Lund, age 12 of Sandpoint, with 126 runs; Second Place: Noah Hastings, age 12 of Sandpoint, with 112 runs; Third Place: Peik Lund, age 12 of Sandpoint, with 90 runs

Youngest male participant(tie): Crosby Schmidt, age 5 of Sandpoint, who completed 43 runs; and Henry Davis, age 5 of Los Angeles, Calif., who completed 9 runs

Youngest female participant: Laura Boge, age 7 of Sandpoint, who completed 48 runs

Oldest participant: Robert Eastwood, age 74 of Liberty Lake, who completed 58 runs

Best costume: Shay McLaughlin (youth), Team “Blue Eyed Bombers” (adult)

Number of volunteers: 40

Major sponsors: Schweitzer, Subaru, TraskBritt, Litehouse, Ezy Dog, Interstate Concrete and Asphalt, Peak Sand and Gravel, Bonner General Hospital, Odom Distribution, Pucci’s Pub, Powder Hound Pizza, Pita Pit, Simulstat, and Sports Creel.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort stayed open all night, with lift operators encouraging participants throughout the evening, ski patrol on stand-by to provide assistance, events crews coordinating rope lines and signage, and employees helping with lodging and meals. More than 40 volunteers helped around the clock with planning, coordination and on-site assistance at the ski event and auction.

Plans are already underway for the next fundraiser, the “Cycling for Cystinosis” 24-hour bike relay event, set for September 8-9, 2012 in Sandpoint.

About 24 Hours for Hank

24 Hours for Hankis a nonprofit foundation established by friends and family of Hank Sturgis to raise money for cystinosis research. Since September 2008, the Sandpoint, Idaho-based organization has raised more than $450,000 for the national Cystinosis Research Foundation supporting medical research to improve treatment and ultimately find a cure for the terminal disease. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.24hoursforhank.org or call 208-610-2131. All gifts are tax deductible as allowed under the tax code of the IRS.

About Cystinosis

Cystinosis is a rare genetic disease that affects just 500 children and young adults in the U.S. and only 2,000 people worldwide. The fatal disease causes the amino acid “cystine” to accumulate in the cells of the body, which over time damages various organs including the kidneys, liver, muscles, white blood cells, eyes and central nervous system. Other complications include muscle weakness, growth loss, difficulty swallowing and developmental delays. Although medication is available to control some of the symptoms, there is no cure.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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