Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Galena gratitude shines like the sun

Supporters ante up record figure for lodge and trails

Express Staff Writer

Benefactor Bob Disbrow checks out Sunday the Piston Bully grooming machine he donated to Galena Lodge. Photo by Willy Cook

The 12th annual Galena Benefit drove through the weekend like the New England Patriots: bigger, better and undefeated.

The event to support Galena Lodge and its public trail system—held Saturday at the Limelight Room in Sun Valley—raised a record $150,000. Jenny Busdon, longtime organizer of the event, was more than thrilled.

"This amount is 45 percent more than last year," she said. "The change of date from November to January helped, and we had a full house."

The fundraiser was dedicated to late cross-county ski racer and Ketchum resident Carl Praeger, who died earlier this winter. Praeger regularly finished in the top 25 in the Boulder Mountain Tour, a popular cross-country ski race that attracts more than 1,000 competitors each year to the North Valley Trails.

One of the highlights of the evening was the appearance of original Galena benefactor Teresa Heinz Kerry. In 1992, she donated $325,000 from the Heinz Family Foundation to purchase and preserve the lodge north of Ketchum in the name of her late husband, U.S. Sen. H. John Heinz III. Now married to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Heinz has been a part-time resident of the area for 30 years. The community matched the funds, enabling the lodge and trail system to be saved and ultimately improved.

Galena Lodge and the nearby trails are now managed and maintained by the Blaine County Recreation District.

"Teresa Heinz was so gracious," said Busdon. "There was such a quietness that appeared when she stepped up on the podium."

In her speech, Heinz expressed her gratitude to the community for understanding the worth and support of Galena. She said that she and her sons considered the lodge and its surrounding trails a treasure and had enjoyed many wonderful times there as a family."

"It was one of those evenings throughout the whole 12 years (of the event) that was one of the very best. Teresa started the ball rolling in 1992, to be there and say why she did it certainly helped.

"The thing was everybody had a good time and that was great. At the very end of the live auction a man from Australia gave an unbelievable live auction item. He donated a week at one of his ski lodges in Australia. That was huge."

Guests offered other items as well. Ketchum resident Peggy Goldwyn donated her flat in London for a week. Last year, it went for $4,000. This year, it went for $10,000, she said.

"There was a warmth at the Galena Benefit that I think is unmatched in the valley," Goldwyn said. "Galena is everyone's place and everyone feels that had a part in saving it. The level of bidding at the silent auction was unbelievable."

The following day, the celebrations continued at the improved and widened Murphy's Bridge, along the Harriman Trail.

The dedication of the new bridge also was accompanied by a champagne "christening" of a new Piston Bully trail-grooming machine that was donated in entirety by benefactor Bob Disbrow of Vancouver, B.C., a part-time resident of Sun Valley.

"He's been an unbelievable supporter from day one," Busdon said. "He does it because he absolutely loves Nordic skiing. He's got such a good heart. He loves Galena and the North Valley Trails and did it for the love of the sport."

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