After freeskier Sarah Burke died from injuries sustained in a halfpipe crash in January 2012, thousands of people donated money to assist in the medical bills accrued during Burke's stay in the hospital. After the debt was settled, the remaining balance went into a fund that would later become the Sarah Burke Foundation. The scholarship aims to help young athletes pursue their winter dreams.
In April, at the annual TRAiNS dinner thrown by Truckee, Calif.-based High Fives Foundation, Landon McGauley, an 18-year-old Canadian sit skier, became the first recipient of a scholarship grant from the Sarah Burke Foundation. Awarded $7,500, McGauley was granted the opportunity because of his goal to become a member of Canadian Paralympic Ski Team.
Josh Dueck, arguably the most celebrated and successful sit skier in the world, was on hand to personally give McGauley the honor.
"Winning the award was the coolest surprise," says McGauley. "I thought if I did win I would've found out a few weeks before so I had already come to the fact I didn't win. That night, I got super emotional right away. I feel super honored to be associated with such an amazing person and foundation."
McGauley broke his T4 and T5 in a mountain biking accident in July 2010. Six months later, he received a grant from High Fives, flew to the Reno/Tahoe airport, got in a sit ski at Alpine Meadows, and began his goal of one day representing Canada in the Winter Olympics. McGauley says he plans to use the money to purchase a new sit ski and for travel expenses to races and ski events.
"Landon has the determination to complete anything and do it with smile," says Roy Tuscany, founder of the High Fives Foundation. "He's the perfect candidate to receive support from the Sarah Burke Foundation."
In addition to McGauley, 15-year-old Taryn Baker and 14-year-old Winter Vinecki also received $7,500 grants from the foundation this month.
Initially, the foundation planned to give out two scholarships this spring, but the applicant pool was so impressive, the organization chose to offer a third grant as well.
"The applications we received were incredible," says Foundation President and husband to Sarah Burke, Rory Bushfield. "There is so much young talent out there and we continue to be awed by the many people who Sarah inspires on a daily basis. After reviewing Landon's, Taryn's and Winter's applications, we really had no choice but to create another scholarship to honor all three of these amazing teenagers."