Nearly a year after Sarah Burke's death, a nonprofit has been established to support the causes that were most important to the freeskier, who died on Jan. 19, 2012 from injuries sustained in a fall during a halfpipe training run. The Sarah Burke Foundation, which officially launched on Tuesday, will celebrate Sarah by offering grants to aspiring winter sports athletes and raising money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"When we all found out what was happening and we knew the actual outcome at the hospital, there was an expectation that we were going to do something in her honor," said Michael Spencer, Burke's agent and a member of the foundation's board of directors. "What better way than starting a foundation and trying to uphold the standards that she set so high for herself and everyone else."
Rory Bushfield, Burke's husband, is the president of the foundation. "Sarah had too many amazing qualities to list, but two of the most obvious ones were her love of winter sports, and her commitment to helping people in need," Bushfield said in a release. "We are honored to be able to continue Sarah's practice of giving through the Sarah Burke Foundation and are grateful for the tremendous support we have received."
Other board members include Canadian Halfpipe head coach Trennon Paynter and Tim Schuetz, Burke's brother-in-law. Elanor Bushfield, Rory's sister, is also working with the foundation.
The foundation will announce the grant application process in early February. Up and coming winter sports athletes and those who need financial assistance to reach the next level are invited to apply. Spencer notes athletic ability is not the only qualification -- the foundation will look for "athletes that exude the humanity, the charisma, and the wholesomeness of Sarah," he said.
In March, the foundation will team up with St. Jude for the hospital's inaugural on-snow event, a fundraiser scheduled to take place in Vail, Colorado.
Start-up funds for the foundation included what remained from donations made by fans and well-wishers after covering Burke's medical costs, plus financial gifts from Burke's sponsors. Smith Optics is donating proceeds from the Sarah Burke Memorial I/OS goggle, which incorporate an image of Burke's snowflake tattoo and her favorite colors as design elements.
Trukfit, a clothing brand by rapper and Burke fan Lil Wayne, will contribute the net proceeds from t-shirt sales depicting the brand's Lil Tommy character in ski attire, decked out in medals that symbolize Burke's accomplishments at the X Games and the FIS World Championships. Snowflake necklaces decorated with diamonds, priced from $180 to $1,300 and made by Joyce's Fine Jewelry, are also for sale at the foundation's website.
Freeskier Michelle Parker said $15,000 raised from "Believe in Sarah" sticker sales will also go to the foundation. "Sarah was a huge inspiration to me from day one -- she was the first poster I had on my wall," Parker said. "The way she carried herself, she was so humble and had such strong character. These are things I aspire to be, and it's important to honor someone who's done so much for us females and the ski industry as a whole."
Much like the #celebratesarah Twitter hashtag, Spencer hopes the foundation will remind people to find joy in helping others and being impactful. "I still can't put it into words. She's one of those people who made the world a better place," Spencer says. "You talk about Sarah now, and people that don't even ski know who she was. That's what this is about -- carrying on not just the spirit of Sarah, but everything she was doing. Teaching people to be better and helping kids that needed it the most."