The Sarah Burke Foundation officially launched last week with the goal of supporting individuals who exude the late freestyle skiing legend’s qualities.
Saturday (Jan. 19) will mark one year since Burke died from injuries sustained in an accident while training in a Utah halfpipe. Widower Rory Bushfield knew immediately after Burke’s death that he wanted to create a foundation as a legacy and outlet to continue honouring his late wife’s efforts in supporting the ski community and girls in sport.
“Honestly, I think it was assumed more than anything that immediately Rory wanted to carry on Sarah’s legacy,” said Michael Spencer, Burke’s agent and founding board member of the foundation. “There was never talk about should we set up a foundation, it was more of how long will getting a foundation set up take. That was probably the first question asked, never a doubt this was … going to happen.”
The foundation is out to support those who embody Burke’s spirit, drive and talent. In the next month, it will be announcing details about the first grant to be awarded and what the application process will entail.
“The chosen beneficiaries will all be those who exude the qualities of Sarah, teaching people how to make this world a better place and always willing to help others,” explained Spencer.
Among a long list of titles to her name, the former Whistler resident was the first woman to land a 1080-degree spin (three rotations in the air) in competition and was a four-time Winter X Games champion in Women’s Superpipe. She also played a leading role in getting freestyle skiing disciplines approved as sanctioned events in the Winter Olympics. Halfpipe and slopestyle skiing will make their debut at the 2014 Games.
Board members are not willing to make their fundraising goal public just yet, but efforts are already underway to encourage cash flow, which includes the sale of necklaces, T-shirts and goggles, all branded with Burke's name. The design of the snowflake pendant necklace was inspired by the tattoo Burke had inked on her foot.
“The foundation receives 50 per cent of the snowflake pendant sale price and the other 50 per cent covers the manufacturing cost,” explained Brandon Katzeff, diamond specialist at Joyce’s Jewelry, which is producing the necklaces. “Initially, I was only going to make the pendant as a favour to my friend Kristi, who was close with Sarah. I thought it was a great idea to create something Sarah’s family could cherish.
“Once I started communicating with Sarah’s family and closest friends about making them a pendant, I realized how special Sarah was and how instrumental she was to the ski community.”
Smith Optics, the sport goggle and eyewear company that sponsored Burke, is also supporting the foundation. Smith just released the Sarah Burke Memorial I/OS goggle, which was designed and created with Burke’s input. The company has confirmed all proceeds from goggle sales will go directly to the foundation.
The foundation is one of many ways Burke has been honoured in the year since her death. Whistler-based Momentum Ski Camps awarded its first scholarship in her name to a young female skier from Nova Scotia last summer, while the Association of Freeskiing Professionals re-named its championship trophies after Burke.
She was also inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012 as a builder to recognize her efforts to get freestyle skiing into the Games.
For more details on how to donate to or support the Sarah Burke Foundation, visit www.sarahburkefoundation.com.
— with files from Eric MacKenzie