Sunday Profile: Summit County real estate agent gives back to the community
December 17, 2016
For one local, living in the Rocky Mountains isn't a privilege — it's something you have to earn.
Edward O'Brien first came to Denver for high school. Like many who have spent their lives in Colorado, he considers himself a native, although he was born in Pennsylvania.
O'Brien moved to the mountains at the age of 18 to attend Western State Colorado University. After moving to the Western Slope, he decided he never wanted to leave. He had officially caught "the bug."
Before coming to Summit, O'Brien spent 12 years in Steamboat Springs. The town laid the foundation for his philosophy behind living in the mountains, and giving back. O'Brien joined Steamboat's Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) and helped to jump start the growth of the summer season there during the '80s.
"Everybody (on the committee) was so young, and so gung-ho," he said.
O'Brien would later join the EDAC committees in both Silverthorne and Dillon once he moved to Summit. He still works with the committee in Silverthorne.
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To get more people to visit Steamboat, he and the committee started planning weekend events to get people in the town. In 1981, they started Steamboat Mountain Road Racing, an event where motorcycles would race down the streets of the town.
"This was all volunteer work, this was just based off making things happen," he said.
The success of this event led to racing vintage cars in Steamboat.
To say that O'Brien is a car buff is an understatement. Framed vintage race cars line the walls of O'Brien's real estate office in Dillon. Even after he moved to Summit in 1985, O'Brien continued to attend the vintage car events in Steamboat until the town no longer had room for the event in 1998.
Lucky for O'Brien, he became a part of Colorado Grand, founded by Bob Sutherland in 1989. The nonprofit brings together what O'Brien called "the cream of the crop" of race car collectors. Every summer, Colorado Grand's vintage car tour covers more than 1,000 miles in the Rockies to raise money. O'Brien said that $500,000 has been raised every year for the past three years from the event, adding that all money raised goes back into Colorado charity organizations.
One of those organizations is Flight For Life. After an avalanche killed local ski coach Tom Stewart and Richard Hartman in 1993, O'Brien worked with the local hospital to have Stewart's medical bills forgiven. In exchange, he helped to raise money for a new helicopter hanger for Flight For Life. After joining the hospital foundation, he began raising funds for the project.
"I went to towns, I went everywhere I could to get that thing started," he said. "That, like the (Flight For Life Mahany Heroes) Park, was built from the community."
After the tragic Flight For Life helicopter crash in July of 2015 that took the life of Patrick Mahany and gravely injured the other two crew members, O'Brien once again took up the mantle to give back to the Summit community.
What started as a plan to place a memorial plaque near the crash site, blossomed into a park, and a whirlwind project that came to be in a little over a year. His experience in starting the pocket parks in Dillon helped in the process of putting the park together. O'Brien remained part of Silverthorne's EDAC board, but stepped down as the chair in order to dedicate more time to the park. The park opened in October of 2016.
Now that the park is finished, O'Brien is enjoying a break, at least in part, by concentrating on his real estate business.
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