playitforwardLocal Non-Profits Benefit from New Holiday Valley Event

By Eva Potter

Play It Forward is a new fundraising event at Holiday Valley that elevates giving back to a new level — and it’s a day of fun on the slopes for all abilities and ages.

When you bring your family to Holiday Valley on Saturday, Feb. 28, you’ll be in for a day of on-mountain challenges, a new Rail Jam, auctions, a vendor village and more. And the best part is that while you’re enjoying a great day of winter adventures, you’ll be helping to support the efforts of non-profits that improve the quality of life for cancer patients and survivors, needy residents and abandoned animals and that provide other important local services.

Dollars Stay Local

This year, all of the funds collected will remain in the community. Play It Forward will divide proceeds among a group of Western New York and local organizations, including Camp Good Days, the Ellicottville Food Pantry, Almost Home Animal Sanctuary, Ellicottville-Great-Valley Ambulance and both Holiday Valley’s and HoliMont’s adaptive ski programs.

Shelly Kibby, co-director of the Ellicottville Food Pantry, said she is thrilled that dollars from this event will support the organization’s efforts.

“Funds that are raised will go toward purchasing a variety of well-balanced foods to assist those who are struggling to put food on the table in this difficult economy,” she said.

According to Kibby, the number of people seeking assistance at food pantries has increased about 60 percent over the past few years, and 1 in 6 people in the U.S. struggle with hunger.

“Good nutrition is critical to maintaining good health. We strive to offer the most nutritious food possible to those in need,” said Kibby. “We also have started saving funds toward a much-needed freezer.”

Also on the list to receive funds is Holiday Valley’s Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program.

“I love the Play It Forward concept,” Lounsbury Program Director Mary Ellen Racich said. “All donations are important to keep the program going.”

Funding will be used to purchase and maintain equipment, train instructors and maintain a scholarship fund to assist those less fortunate by providing adaptive ski lessons.

She said, “We also have a Veterans Day in which disabled veterans in the area come for ski lessons. There has been such a good response to this we are having two Veterans Days this ski season.”

The HoliMont Snowsports Phoenix Program also will benefit. Snowsports Director Wendy Frank says, “We are very happy to be a part of such a wonderful event. The Phoenix program will use the funds to purchase adaptive equipment so we stay on ‘the cutting edge’ for our students.” She notes that the “Phoenix Program not only is a service to HoliMont members and guests, we also run an outreach program on Sundays for non-members to join our great program.”

Another recipient of this year’s fundraiser is the Almost Home Animal Sanctuary, located on a farm in Little Valley, NY, that is owned and run by veterinarian Tim O’Leary and his wife, Laurie. The sanctuary takes in abandoned animals who spend the rest of their days living in a caring and loving environment on the farm.

“Food is our biggest expense,” O’Leary said, explaining that the farm goes through 100 cans of feline food and 40 bales of hay per week. Funds from the Play It Forward event will help cover those and other costs.

Play It Forward also will benefit the Women’s Oncology Program at Camp Good Days and Special Times, a regional residential summer camp that provides women who are dealing with cancer the opportunity to share risks, fears and barriers of daily life with others who are going through similar experiences. Programs take place on a 13.5-acre waterfront property on Keuka Lake in Branchport, NY.

Tributes, Challenges and Auctions

You can get started on your generous journey by registering online in advance or in person on event day from 9-11 a.m. in the Birdie Room on the top floor of the Holiday Valley Lodge.

The resort-wide Vertical Challenge is the primary fundraiser. Competitors raise funds in their names at, where they can create their own page that allows friends and family to support their efforts. It only costs $10 to register and there is a minimum fundraising goal of $40.

The Vertical Challenge event takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when participants will run a NASTAR race, eat a hot dog, slide at the Fort, ride the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster and find a specific Clan Rock. Bonus challenges will be available to help add to your score.

One lucky winner will go home with the Top Fundraiser prize, and the skier or boarder with the most vertical feet recorded that day will also win a cool prize.

Another way to help is to head to Mardi Gras for the 10:45 a.m. kickoff event – the Tribute Ride to support for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.

You may purchase a pink Tribute Ride bell for only $10 at the bottom of Mardi Gras before riding the chair, or bring your bells from last year. Then, get ready to make some noise! Proceeds from the bell sales will go to the event’s beneficiaries.

There’s also a Rail Jam, open to skiers and riders, at 11:30 a.m. in the Fun Rail Park. Registration is $10 and includes great prizes.

You’ll also want to check out the Chinese and silent auctions from noon to 5 p.m. They will be filled with interesting items and cool theme baskets.

Finally, wrap up the day at 5 p.m. in the Birdie Room with an awards party and a chance to share stories with friends and family.

You can also help the cause off-piste by visiting The Boardroom, Mud Sweat N’ Gears, The City Garage and Dekdebruns — some of the many event sponsors – and dropping off gently used winter clothing and nonperishable food items.

Interested in becoming a sponsor? Contact Jane Eshbaugh, Spencer Timkey or Kristen Sciara at (716) 699-2345.

And, extra help is still needed.

“We can definitely use volunteers,” said Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley’s marketing director. “Both indoor and outdoor jobs are available for an hour or all day.” You can reach her directly at (716) 699-3904.