Over 1,000 walk in honor of Rob Millisor at inaugural event
Hundreds lined up behind the start, decked out in various shades of orange. As soon as the air horn sounded, they began their procession from Carter Park through the streets of Breckenridge, in honor of the late Rob Millisor.
The Breckenridge Grand Vacations co-founder died in October, while on a philanthropic visit to Nepal. The sudden loss prompted loved ones to create the event in Rob’s memory, and educate others about heart health.
“There was no question we were coming up to this event,” said Cathy Purkin, a friend of the Millisors. “All of our husbands ran the Ragnar Race with Rob.”
She teamed up with her family and friends to form “WWRD (What Would Rob Do?).” The group of nearly 30 people drove up from Denver, after having met Rob and Amy Millisor as neighbors three years ago. Meanwhile, Amy Millisor and her family came out in force, as “Robbie’s ThRobs”.
“Our kids go to school together — it’s like a second community for them,” Purkin added.
For what could have been a very somber occasion, there were also smiles, as friends shared memories of Rob and his legacy. Rob Millisor was remembered for his generosity — he served both with the Summit Foundation’s executive committee and the Children’s Hospital Colorado Board of Trustees most recently. But he was also remembered as an active man who was constantly on his feet, who passed while hiking in an earthquake-impacted area of Nepal.
“Nine months ago, we received some very awful news about my brother and this town was shaken up,” Breckenridge Grand Vacations owner and developer Mike Millisor said. “Robbie would have liked to run. We know how he was.”
As a seemingly never ending stream of participants continued to walk in throughout the morning, volunteers nearly ran out of registration forms for the inaugural Rob Millisor Heart Health Walk (also known as RAM Walk). In total, the heart health awareness fundraiser drew more than 1,000 people, including several locals, Rob’s family, and friends from across the U.S.
“Jeepers,” Mike Millisor said as he scanned the crowd. “I am so moved. Rob would be so proud of this.”
He and Breckenridge Grand Vacations owner and developer Mike Dudick teamed up to cover the cost of the event, allowing all proceeds to go to a heart health and education fund created through the Summit Foundation. In preregistrations alone, the event raised $175,000, BGV Gives program manager Deb Edwards noted. The website will stay open for donations after the walk.
“Yesterday donations were just pouring in,” she said. “We want to help with community awareness and education.”
HEART HEALTH AT ALTITUDE
In addition, Edwards said they hoped to donations to support research efforts, with two local cardiologists studying the effects of altitude on heart and lung function.
“I’m seeing the effects of high altitude in people who have worked here for many years,” said Dr. Peter Lemis, a cardiologist with St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.
While visitors to the mountains may occasionally be susceptible to altitude sickness, living at altitude has its own effects on the body. While blood vessels in the lungs may narrow to account for lower oxygen levels, this can lead to pulmonary hypertension, which stresses the right side of the heart. Others may notice sleep apnea, with periods of cycling breathing followed by a pause due to the lack of oxygen.
“People could have this for 5, 10 or 20 years and not know about it,” Lemis said. “Not enough research has been done.”
He suggested using a finger pulse oximeter to measure oxygen levels at night.
The event provided other educational opportunities as well, with blood pressure tests and medical experts available to answer questions.
“The tragedy that befell us should never happen again,” Dudick said, encouraging everyone at Saturday’s event to use the resources available to prevent another loss.
An overnight success, the Rob Millisor Heart Health Walk is expected to return next year, and for several to come.
“Let’s keep doing this for many years,” Dudick said.
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