On Friday, Schweitzer Mountain Resort will honor the memory of one of its own.
Heather Gibson, an avid skier and a beloved member of the Schweitzer family and Sandpoint community, died in August 2006 after battling cancer for eight years, leaving many in this small community forever missing the woman they called a friend and mentor.
“Heather was a great friend to many people on the mountain. Heather worked at both the Alpine Shop and Schweitzer for many years, and she and her family were part of the Schweitzer community,” said Mary Weber-Quinn, Schweitzer events and activities director. “Her illness was a reminder that cancer can hit healthy and athletic people.”
Heather’s fight against cancer was a journey which she traveled bravely. Always wearing a smile and often found at her two sons’ many activities, the loss of her hair due to chemotherapy treatments was often the only indication that Heather was battling cancer. Her spirit and outlook was always one of hope, and Heather did much to convey that same message to others who may have lost the will to go on.
“Heather touched many lives. She was easily approachable. She was willing to put herself out there and discuss her own private life to help others get the best possible care and better understand what they might face,” said Heather’s friend, Jennifer Merwin.
In 2003, with the help of her friend, Cynthia Dalsing, Heather realized one of her dreams with the opening of Community Cancer Services – a local nonprofit information and resource center for cancer patients and their families. The center provides financial and emotional support, education on everything from prevention to end of life issues and offers several programs that improve the comfort and quality of life for those affected by the diagnosis of cancer.
“Currently we have over 100 clients, and like any nonprofit, Community Cancer Services is in need of funds to keep moving forward to meet the ever changing needs of our clients,” said Stefanie Nostdahl, president of the board of directors for CCS.
As a way to honor Heather and to keep her mission moving forward, Schweitzer Mountain Resort will host A Day for Heather on Friday, offering $10 lift tickets all day and for all ages. All the proceeds from this Friday’s event will be donated to Community Cancer Services.
“We really look forward to hosting A Day for Heather each year,” said Schweitzer president and CEO Tom Chasse. “It’s always amazing to see so many people out supporting the cause and having a great time while they’re at it. All of the funds stay local and help cancer patients right here at home.”
This year’s event will take place on a day when local schools are not in session, giving organizers reason to hope for one of the most successful years in the event’s three-year history.
“Schweitzer has been one of our biggest supporters since we first opened. For a business to donate an entire day’s profits is amazing. It just shows how much Schweitzer truly cares about the cancer patients in our community,” said Nostdahl who added that at this time last year CCS nearly had to close its doors due to insufficient funding. “It was a scary time.”
But because people have always been willing to help and to donate their time and money to CCS, Heather’s mission continues to touch people long after her death.
“Even with cancer, Heather felt very blessed. She wanted other people facing cancer to feel the love and support she did,” said Merwin. “She wanted them to know that they were not alone.”