Campaigning against cancer |

Campaigning against cancer

Special to the Daily

Mike Waesche is on a mission to become Colorado Man of the Year.

No, it’s not a beauty contest or a talent competition. In fact, Waesche isn’t really even campaigning for himself, but rather acting as a tool in bringing aid to others.

Colorado Man of the Year is a fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Waesche, who has been campaigning since November of last year, is in the final stretch, working to raise enough money to reach his $50,000 goal by this weekend.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. With chapters spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, the agency works to fund research to cure leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease.

The Woman/Man of the Year campaign is just one way in which the LLS works to raise funds for its research. The candidates, who can be nominated by others or nominate themselves, compete with each other in honor of local children who are survivors of blood-related cancers. Each dollar a candidate raises counts as one vote for that candidate. The man and woman who raise the most money by the end of the campaign are given the title Man/Woman of the Year.

Waesche’s reaction on learning he had been nominated was, “Really? Me?”

“I was surprised,” he said, but he quickly got on board and started planning his campaign.

“The title’s kind of cool, but at the end of the day, everybody’s trying to raise a dollar,” he said. “Every single dollar makes a difference, it doesn’t matter if it’s $1 or a thousand dollar donation.”

Local support

When Waesche isn’t campaigning to cure cancer, he spends his days working as a firefighter for Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and as CEO of Rocky Mountain Underground (RMU) Skis.

A native of Castle Rock, Waesche was a long-time vacationer to Summit County before finally becoming a permanent resident about eight years ago. He was excited to get hired with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, having applied for such a position for several years before landing one.

It only took a few years, however, before Waesche’s passion for skiing turned into more than just an off-duty hobby. Working together with a group of equally passionate friends, Waesche not only created his own ski brand but, in five years, took the company “from one ski in a garage to international distribution.”

It was through RMU that Waesche became more and more involved in local nonprofits and fundraisers for important causes. Involvement in these events led to his current Man of the Year nomination, Waesche said.

Raising money for LLS and its cancer curing cause is more than just philanthropy for Waesche. A close friend of his died from leukemia, and another friend is a survivor. This Man of the Year campaign, Waesche said, is his way to honor them.

Throughout his campaign over the past months, Waesche said the support he’s gotten from the Summit County community has been “unreal.” He’s hoping to finish strong and even if he doesn’t win the title, he’s happy to have been involved in the LLS cause.

“The whole thing is it’s the opportunity to make a difference,” he said. “It’s so easy to talk about it and say it’s a good cause, (but) when you actually reach into your pocket and make a donation, that’s the action that it takes.”

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