Pink Vail and its Oklahoma Connection-Emily Stratton

Posted in: Club Newsletter, Featured, Reflections Articles
Emily Stratton

Emily Stratton


Next week a fundraiser called the “world’s biggest ski day to conquer cancer” will take place in Vail, Colorado. If you enjoy skiing or just enjoy being at a ski resort on a festive day like no other, April 2 is the day to visit Vail. An instant success, Pink Vail, as it was named, attracted 683 participants its first year in 2012 and raised $190,000. Each year it has grown and just four years later, participants numbered 2,424, raising $720,000 in 2015. The goal is to raise money for the Shaw Regional Cancer Center and to have fun in a family friendly event. The Shaw Center is one of the only comprehensive cancer centers in a ski community in the entire world.

To get an idea of the fun everybody has, click on to its website ( and enjoy all the spirited pictures of skiers and non-skiers alike all dressed in pink—from frilly skirts to wigs—and skiing, dancing, laughing or just hanging out. The cause to help the local cancer center and at the same time to create an unforgettable day of festivity is a perfect combination.

It’s of notable interest to us that this exceptional event was started by a small town Oklahoma boy—Michael Holton, who grew up in Poteau. In 2004, Michael and his wife, Kelly, moved to Vail, planning to stay only a year or so. Now it’s been 12 and it looks like they are well entrenched in the community. Following several marketing manager jobs, where he helped put on events, he went to work for the Vail Valley Medical Center, which includes the Shaw Cancer Center. The Center treats about 200 patients each year, 40% of them breast cancer patients. In one of his early meetings with a vice president at Shaw, Michael suggested the idea of a ski day for cancer, which he thought was a natural fit for their community. People walk, run, bike, jump rope and even grow mustaches for cancer, but nobody was doing a big, spirited ski day for cancer, Michael realized. In fact, there were very few ski events for causes, which he thought was a missed opportunity considering the clientele.

That very first Pink Vail, said Michael, became the “world’s biggest ski day to conquer cancer”—that nothing else even now comes close. He said there was a lot of energy around the first one, but nobody really knew what the event was supposed to be. Just like a walk or run, they asked people to register for a ski day on Vail Mountain and then ask friends and family to sponsor their day—with all proceeds going to Shaw Cancer Center. Originally, it was going to only support programming for breast cancer patients, but the first year was so successful, they decided funds should benefit ALL cancer patients at Shaw. They kept the pink theme because it added so much fun.

The funds have now created a unique program at Shaw called “Spirit of Survival,” which provides all its cancer patients with free exercise training, nutrition coaching, emotional support, outdoor adventures, acupuncture, massages, and more. Fifty-five percent of donations for Pink Vail come from outside Colorado, including all 50 states and 12 countries.

Our salute to an Oklahoma boy who believes God uses people to do good work on earth, and it was very clear to him that he was put on a path to help create Pink Vail.

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