Celebration of Life to honor Dwight Brill
BRECKENRIDGE – Friends will gather for the fourth annual Celebration of Life Thursday to remember and honor the life of Dwight Brill, who died of cancer May 6, 1999.
Brill lived in Summit County for 20 years and worked at Breckenridge Ski Resort for 15. Friends and co-workers threw a surprise party for him in October 1998 after doctors rediagnosed him with cancer and gave him six months to a year to live.
They opened the Celebration of Life bank fund to help offset the costs of medical bills during the last four months of his life, which he spent in the hospital. After his widow finished paying the bills, she used the remaining $2,300 to establish the fund. Money in the fund is used to help Breckenridge Ski Resort employees in times of crisis.
“I wanted to do something like that,” said Brill’s widow, Kathy Angotti. “And I felt really blessed that we had that kind of support around here – good friends, an amazing community. Not everyone has that.”
In the past four years, the Celebration of Life board raised more than $31,000 through lasagna dinners and silent auctions and contributed $20,000 to people in need. the money has helped offset the costs of knee surgery, emotional support for those going through a divorce, making ends meet when a house burned down – even supplying food for new employees who don’t have much money until the paychecks start coming in.
“It’s a phenomenal service to those who are in need,” said longtime friend Joe Schoefield. “There are a lot of people still who don’t make very much money, and there are people without health insurance. Other people have other needs: emotional support, help with rent. The fund gives to the needy you don’t see every day in life, like people with families who are barely surviving.”
The first employee received a contribution from the fund in February 2000; three others received money in 2001. In 2002, the board created the Catastrophic Fund, from which three ski resort employees received assistance. An additional three received money from the basic fund.
In February, the board created the Child Care Assistance Fund, from which four employees received assistance. This year, two people have received help from the Catastrophic Fund.
Brill moved to Summit County in the late 1970s and worked for various companies before settling in at the ski resort, where he worked on ski patrol, snowmaking, trails and grooming.
He was diagnosed with appendix cancer in 1991; doctors rediagnosed him with it six years later.
According to Angotti, Brill refused to let his disease bring down his spirits. One summer, he rode his bike 1,000 miles, all the while receiving weekly chemotherapy treatments. He skied until the last three months of his life.
“He was a fun, loving, happy guy with a real contagious laugh you could always hear in another room,” Angotti said. “When he was rediagnosed, part of his treatment was his exercise regimen, staying positive and continuing to help other people. When it was enough and he was done with everything, I think Dwight lived his life the way he really wanted to. After the first time around, he learned not to take things for granted, to live life for what’s important: friends, the outdoors and myself.”
Schoefield met Brill in 1978, when Breckenridge residents took whatever jobs they could find, working in ski shops, local inns and eventually, at the ski area, then owned by Aspen Ski Co.
Schoefield remembers playing Frisbee on Main Street with Brill, or hiking, biking, windsurfing, exploring local mining history and hanging out at the bar, nursing a scotch.
He called the Celebration of Life fundraiser a gathering of locals old and new.
“It’s a great way for the whole community to come together and support a function that helps the rest of the community,” he said.
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