Skiers at A-Basin, Breckenridge raise funds for Breck teen-ager |

Skiers at A-Basin, Breckenridge raise funds for Breck teen-ager

BRECKENRIDGE – While 38 skiers spent Monday pounding their way down the double black-diamond runs off Breckenridge Ski Resort’s E Chair to raise money for a local youth, Roger Hollenbeck was doing laps at Arapahoe Basin for the same cause.

The winning E Chair Challenge team went up and down the mountain 51 times in seven hours, while Hollenbeck, who was riding a ski bike, made 33 runs down the runs around the Pallavicini Lift at Arapahoe Basin. Hollenbeck raised $2,750 and the E Chair athletes raised $1,300 – all of which will go to the Armando Tovar Medical Fund. The challenge was sponsored by Tom Halmos, Rich Banach of Avalanche Sports and Ryan Behnke, whose has a coworker who volunteers as a Mountain Mentor and works with Armando.

The 14-year-old Breckenridge boy was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in January, and his family faces tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Initially, Armando’s doctors prescribed anti-inflammatories and physical therapy when he dislocated a knee while skateboarding three years ago. But the problems didn’t go away. So his mother, Liz, took him to another orthopedic surgeon in January.

Doctors said it was a tumor that extended from his kneecap and radiated three-quarters of the way up his femur.

The teen-ager since has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and direct chemical applications that killed about 98 percent of the tumor and reduced its size by about half. He also underwent surgery to remove cancer from his lungs.

Armando spent the past nine days in the hospital with a staph infection and pneumonia but was able to return home Friday night. Monday night, however, he developed a high fever and was coughing, so he and his mother headed back to Denver Tuesday. They also met with a surgeon to determine which route would be best when they remove the tumor and the boy’s femur.

The bone will be replaced with either a cadaver leg or a titanium rod – neither of which can grow with him and would require additional surgery to replace. Other options are to replace it with a spring-loaded apparatus that can be lengthened with a jolt of electricity, or amputation.

After that, Armando will undergo eight months of intensive surgery.

Tuesday, doctors planned to let the Tovars know if the cancer had spread elsewhere. Because it already has once, to Armando’s lungs, it reduces his survival rate.

“But we don’t look at statistics,” Liz said. “We’ve been told to stay really positive, and that’s what I’m doing. It’s going to be a tough summer.”

Armando’s father, Guillermo, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Armando has applied to the Make a Wish Foundation; he wants to attend a Metallica concert and meet the band.

Meanwhile, Liz Tovar works to keep up with the medical bills, which are growing quickly.

A week in the hospital cost $60,000 – and that didn’t include the oncologist. Many bills haven’t come in yet, Liz said and the family’s insurance company was contesting some of the bills. Armando still faces additional chemotherapy, surgeries, prosthetic evaluations, physical therapy, tests and psychological assistance.

That’s where the fundraisers have helped, Liz said.

A Mardi Gras celebration at Main Street Station raised $18,000.

“It always amazes me here in Breckenridge,” said Kathy Zygulski-Byrne of East-West Partners, which sponsored the event. “You let people know, and they show up to take care of things.”

“This hadn’t been done before,” Hollenbeck said of his laps on the Pali lift. “I wanted to see what the sport can do. And I thought it was a wonderful, unusual way to raise money for him.”

“This community is amazing – it really is,” Liz said. “I was thinking about leaving during my divorce, but thank God I didn’t. I didn’t realize how many friends I had in this town. People are just wonderful.”

People who want to contribute to the fund can make donations to the Armando Tovar Medical Fund at any Wells Fargo bank.

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