Faces of Hope | SummitDaily.com

Faces of Hope

This series was commissioned by Building Hope Summit County in an effort to promote mental health, reduce stigma and improve access to care for everyone in Summit County.


The grand negotiator: Mike Dudick’s journey to take back control from alcohol

Photo by Liam Doran / Liam Doran Photography

By all accounts, Mike Dudick is an excellent negotiator. He’s a successful marketer, manager and developer, a generous philanthropist, active community leader, and CEO and co-owner of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, the largest year-round employer in Summit County outside of the ski areas.

But when it came to alcohol, Mike’s skills failed him.

Now two years sober and intensely grateful for the changes it has brought to his life, the 55-year-old is sharing his recovery journey. Mike is articulate about his relationship with alcohol and passionate about helping others who’ve also lost their ability to negotiate with the substance.

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Order, disorder, reorder: Haley Littleton’s journey through anxiety and identity

Photo by Liam Doran / Liam Doran Photography

Anxiety has nipped at the heels of Haley Littleton her whole life.

She describes it “as a low hum” in the back of her head: “You’re not doing enough. You’re not good enough. You need to be better. You need to work harder.”

Haley, who was raised as an evangelical Christian, said her religion informed her ideas of success.

“Growing up in an evangelical culture, I thought religion was the pursuit of perfection,” she said. “I internalized that. My personality was shaped by earning validation and being the best student, the best Christian, the best captain of the basketball team and always trying to fit more and more in.”

But success only intensified the pressure she’d put on herself.

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Keeping hope alive: Jared Dennis’ journey from loss to recovery

Photo by Liam Doran / Liam Doran Photography

Jared Dennis — physically chiseled, emotionally steady and intensely forthright — believes all things happen for a reason.

Jared shared the rocky details of his life over the past four years, including a drunk on duty charge, intense public criticism and the loss of his job, kids and house.

His story is often dark and complex, but to his credit, he lays it bare.

A former sergeant with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Jared said he had long been trying to amicably separate from his first wife, whom he had married in 2003 and had four children with.

On July 27, 2016, he “got firm” and asked for a divorce. The next day, he faced domestic violence charges and later lost his job.

“I felt like I’d lost pretty much everything,” he said.

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Frisco mother still coming to terms with her son’s 2006 suicide

Kate Lapides / Special to the Daily

A photo album records the arc of the life of Betty Claybrook’s oldest child, Josh. It opens with a birth certificate from St. Joseph’s Hospital on which his tiny, delicate footprints are stamped. He was born at 8:40 in the morning on May 21,1979. HSubsequent pages in the album reveal familiar moments in the lives of mountain kids living in a then-blue collar Summit County: Josh in snow pants as a toddler, with his baby sister Jamie by his side. Josh skiing off small cliffs, riding snowmobiles and riding mountain bikes on family camping trips to Moab. Later, there are pictures of Josh with his own sons Elijah and Peyton, and Josh hoisting his niece Cynthia into the air when she was a toddler. In the photos, everyone is youthful and often smiling.

Toward the end of the album are a handful of photos from Blackfoot, Idaho. That’s where Josh Claybrook took his life at age 27 on a summer day in June 2006.

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After bipolar diagnosis, Summit County woman rebuilds a life

Kate Lapides / Special to the Daily

Marilyn Hogan is a dynamic, beautiful, and accomplished professional. She’s been married to her husband for 32 years and has three talented, successful children, two of whom spent much of their childhood ski racing in Summit County.

Few know that Marilyn’s long trajectory of success came on the heels of deep struggle. Prior to moving to Summit County in 1982, she had been a stay-at-home mom living in Woodland Park with her first husband and two sons. After a period in her early 20s of significant family stress that followed the birth of her second son, she experienced a manic episode. She was hospitalized for three days, given a diagnosis of manic depression and medications, and sent home. Shortly after, her then husband left the state with her two children, leaving Marilyn without any money and a broken down Jeep.

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A brother’s death put Summit County woman on to a path to enlightenment

Kate Lapides / Special to the Daily

Emily Steingart appears to be living an idyllic mountain-town life. In between juggling several side gigs in marketing and communications, she’s busy co-launching a new yoga retreat business called GOYO Adventures. Last summer, she worked as a production assistant for an Aspen photoshoot for Fabletics, an active-wear clothing line founded by Kate Hudson. Her Instagram feed is a catalog of enviable adventures.

Among the long, happy Instagram feed, though, one photo stands out in stark contrast: a quiet image of eight balloons lifting into a dark blue sky at Massachusetts Skaket Beach.

Each year, on Emily’s beloved older brother Mike’s birthday, her family reunites at a Cape Cod beach and releases balloons in the air. Mike died 11 years ago, on Dec. 11, 2005, as the result of an accidental overdose.

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Climbing out of the darkness

Kate Lapides / Special to the Daily

In the summer of 2016, Breckenridge local and climber Sam Higby completed the demanding and spectacular Evolution Traverse. A high alpine, continuous ridge traverse that links numerous peaks along the Evolution Basin in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada, the route requires continuous mixed fourth class scrambling and fifth class climbing across nearly 9 miles of technical terrain, much of it with significant exposure at 13,000 feet.

“It was the next day, in a coffee shop, still too tired and sore to eat or sit on a toilet, that I had the thought, ‘I am enough,’” he says. “I’d never had that thought in my life. I still don’t know what that means entirely.”

Why would it take until age 36 for a thoughtful, intelligent and talented climber, craftsman and skier to have his first powerful epiphany about his own self worth? As a child, Sam was the victim of abuse in a deeply religious household. Like so many children who experience such devastating early trauma, it left painful scars and a damaged sense of identity.

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Breckenridge couple learns to live with pain of son’s suicide

Kate Lapides / Special to the Daily

For Cary and Marsha Cooper, healing from the loss of their son, Glenn, has meant focusing on the exuberant and vital life he lived instead of the way in which he died at age 44. Each year, on the anniversary of his suicide, they walk to a beloved spot on the Sallie Barber trail. It’s a place they’ve hiked to countless times during their 20 years in Breckenridge, sometimes with him by their side. They feel his spirit here, and they spend time reflecting on the generous life he lived and the countless moments of joy they shared. They think about how much they loved him, and how much they miss him. And then, they try to move on.

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