Copper Mountain fundraiser totals $80K-plus for Silverthorne resident Dave Repsher | SummitDaily.com

Copper Mountain fundraiser totals $80K-plus for Silverthorne resident Dave Repsher

Flurries were falling and the temperature low, but spirits could not have been higher for the pond-hockey tournament at Copper Mountain Resort this past weekend paying respect to and raising funds for Dave Repsher, one of two survivors from last July's Flight For Life helicopter crash.

The Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation — a Littleton, Colorado-based charitable nonprofit dedicated to helping members of the adult hockey community who are in need — organized the three-day, 24-team, 180-participant event. Aside from being a paramedic and flight nurse, the 45-year-old Repsher, of Silverthorne, was a member of Copper Mountain Ski Patrol as well as a local recreational hockey player.

"Today, the ice was great, all the teams have been great, no injuries, so everything's been really, really wonderful," said Martin Richardson, Dawg Nation president and founder. "I think the whole event, it's probably surpassed our expectations in a lot of ways. The community, it's awesome to get them out here, but, really, it's honestly about Dave and Amanda right now."

The three-division competition got underway the evening of Friday, Jan. 8 and wrapped up with the semifinals and finals the morning of Sunday, Jan. 10. A-Division team 5280 Waste, which included retired Colorado Avalanche great Milan Hejduk after a winning bid of $830 for his services before the tournament, took home those bragging rights. In the B- and C-divisions, two teams with notable ties to Repsher also walked away winners.

D-Rep Support, a team Repsher himself played on prior to being injured, won the B-Division with help from former Los Angeles King Derek Armstrong at a bid of $1,200; the Powder Pigs, made up of members of the Copper Ski Patrol, took the C-Division. During the B-Division championship, the Flight For Life helicopter from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco circled the pond-turned-hockey rinks, and the game was briefly stopped and everyone cheered.

After the bulk of play on Saturday, an evening reception was held at the Copper Conference Center, which featured the singing of the national anthem by Denver staple Jake Schroeder, a five-minute tribute video and message from Repsher and his wife Amanda that was read aloud, in addition to a live auction. A standing-room-only crowd gathered to open their hearts as well as their wallets to help support the cause, with 100 percent of the proceeds from the team entry fees, sponsorships and local community donations going to directly to the Repshers.

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Following drinks and hors d'oeuvres, Richardson loudly asked the large congregation of backers, "Who's here for Dave Repsher?" They responded with booming shouts and applause, and he welcomed to the stage Repsher's mother Marilyn and brother Jim, who flew in from Washington state, to accept a check for $35,000 on behalf of Dave and Amanda. That was the total the fundraiser had achieved before the night's festivities, and he challenged the audience to help reach or even surpass $50,000, which was displayed in red on a poster as a growing meter on a hockey stick.

Once several items such as suite tickets for 18 to an upcoming Avalanche game with Hejduk and a signed jersey ($5,500) and a Copper lift-ticket package that included a pair of Lib Tech skis ($1,600) were auctioned off, the total amount in contributions exceeded $75,000. By the next day's count after the donation boxes had been added, it was more than $80,000, all of which will go directly to the Repshers toward living expenses.

"Oh, my God, it's a life-saver," said Marilyn Repsher. "We have a lot of uncovered expenses. It's a tribute and a validation of Dave's life and work and caring for the community and other people. Summit County is a magnificent community. When you make friends here, it's for a lifetime."

Since the accident, which killed pilot Patrick Mahany, 64, of Silverthorne, and also injured fellow flight nurse Matt Bowe, 32 (who returned to work in November), of Frisco, Amanda has been on leave from her position as an administrative nurse with Cenutra Health to be by her husband's side throughout the recovery process. Seven months later, he is now fully awake and alert, though remains in critical condition at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora after suffering burns to 90 percent of his body.

"There's no injury quite like this," explained Jim Repsher. "If this would have been a cancer, we would have known how this was going to go. He would have been either dead or out of the hospital months ago. And even though he's done real well the last two weeks, we're still at day-to-day.

"I really hope we're getting to the point where the thought of losing him, we can leave that behind," he continued. "We're not there yet. At least now, he's still alive."

Dave Repsher was in a coma for six months and near death at least three times, requiring emergency surgeries to save his life. He still has 30 percent of his body surface to be covered by skin grafts, and, when circumstances are perfect, doctors can add 5-to-10 percent every three-to-four weeks, with his brother estimating it will be another two-plus months before Dave is mostly covered. There are many obstacles ahead, and, at present, he is just learning to move and swallow again.

The total raised from the weekend — Dawg Nation's first pond-hockey tournament — was far and away greater than any single fundraiser the charitable organization had previously collected in its five-year history. Through annual events like a comedy club night, fall golf tournament and bubble hockey competition, the largest individual donation to any of the 45 prior recipients was $25,000.

"The biggest reason why we're here is the money," said Richardson. "This is why I do what I do. We're going to make a difference tonight."

Orange pieces of yarn in the shape of a ribbon were distributed during the night to be pinned to shirts as a sign of esteem for Flight For Life, and tables were adorned with candles, Dawg Nation pucks and framed photos of Repsher taking part in any number of his outdoor hobbies. His brother Jim walked among the audience of longtime friends, residents and well-wishers throughout the evening with real-time video on his iPhone via FaceTime running, so Dave and Amanda could tune into all that was happening. Many stopped Jim to provide a personal message directly to them back in their hospital room.

"The hardest thing is, how do you repay a community for an outpouring like that?" he said. "No detail too small has been overlooked. His neighbors are taking care of his house, another his dog (Turq, an adult yellow lab, who was also on hand Saturday night).

"I'm much happier out here celebrating a great turn in Dave's fight than the alternative," he added. "This is a hell of a lot better than a funeral."