"Smooth and steady,
Cheeso was always the first coach at the start and the last to go home. There was never a bad day on the mountain for Cheeso, and he translated that to all the kids he coached."
Former Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation executive director and head alpine coach Lane Monroe made statements like that Saturday night about Craig "Cheeso" Kjesbo, a highly respected and technically adept ski team coach for the SVSEF.
Kjesbo was honored by the SVSEF as the fifth recipient of the Jack Simpson Dedicated Coach Award on Saturday during the 32nd annual Fall Game Dinner and Auction fundraiser for Sun Valley's junior ski and snowboard programs.
A Sun Valley Ski Team coach for 26 years and "the rock of the C-Teamers," according to Monroe, Kjesbo, 57, has battled brain cancer and lung cancer during the past two years.
But the Minneapolis native enjoyed Saturday's dinner festivities. He sat at a table with his wife of 17 years, Kary, and other longtime SVSEF coaches like Monroe, Jeff Enos, Chris Key and Pat Savaria.
Kjesbo came to Sun Valley from Fargo, N.D. in 1974 and has been the longest-tenured SVSEF coach. A stucco plasterer and one of Baldy's best skiers, Kjesbo received a lengthy standing ovation from the big crowd at Saturday's Fall Game Dinner.
He also earned a $500 check from the Simpson family that goes with the prestigious Jack Simpson honor.
An estimated 375 to 400 people attended Saturday's dinner in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn, SVSEF development director Karoline Droege said. She was pleased that, in a tough economy, "We met our budget for the whole event."
Helping Droege organize Saturday's event was longtime SVSEF event director Kate Berman.
Sun Valley's talented chefs prepared a sit-down dinner of game selected by Mountain Pride. Tickets were $100 per person. And sponsor tables were $1,500 for the SVSEF's most important fundraising event. Funds were raised other ways, too.
The economy is in the doldrums, but you couldn't tell by the bids on 74 silent auction offerings or by the spirited bidding on the 10 live auction items Saturday. Encouraged by auctioneer Christian Kolberg, the live auction buyers pledged $76,500.
Here are some of the buys:
$8,000 for the Mt. Everest Trekking Adventure with Pete Patterson and Kim Jacobs; $10,000 for private jet service for four (your choice of West Coast destination); and $5,500 for the lobster and jazz dinner for 20, a Game Dinner auction favorite.
Also, $2,000 for the Palm Springs vacation including airfare for four; $4,000 for a South Dakota pheasant hunt near Aberdeen; $7,000 for a two-night stay for two couples at Amangani Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyo.; $7,500 for the private martini party for 50 people featuring a Neil Diamond tribute act at the Cavallino Lounge; and $6,500 for the Sun Valley Heli Ski corporate pass.
The biggest buys, both going for $13,000, were a night ski racing party at Rotarun and also the Argentinean lamb barbecue for 40 people hosted by Tim and Tracy Flaherty at their Gimlet home.
Droege said the revamped "Champion of the Foundation" bidding was "a huge success," raising another $75,000 at levels of $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500 and $250. The donations are earmarked for financial assistance for tuition and travel as well as for SVSEF operational costs.
Short speeches given by high-achieving SVSEF athletes Morgan Arritola, Alexa Turzian and Kaitlin Farrington after the dinner helped those in the audience understand the importance of pledges, Droege said.
Current SVSEF athletes sold "mystery balloons," for $20, $50 and $100, and the balloon prize donors from the community were very generous, Droege said. "We sold more balloons than ever before."
Prize winners were also announced for the SVSEF kids selling raffle tickets. A first-place tie for selling the most tickets went to Hayden Burdge, and Chase and Tanner Josey. Devon Brown won third place.
The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation has been providing Wood River Valley's youth with opportunities in skiing and snowboarding for over 40 years. This coming season, over 500 young athletes are expected to be involved in the alpine, cross-country, freestyle and snowboard programs.