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Whistler Blackcomb Foundation could be used as model at other Vail resorts

Telus Golf Classic raises over $200K for Sea to Sky's largest fundraising organization

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Plenty of changes are underway at Whistler Blackcomb with Vail Resorts now at the reins of North America's most popular ski destination.

But one thing that isn't likely to change in the near future is the amount of support the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation (WBF) can expect from its leading sponsor.

"Vail has committed to us to continue the same level of partnership Whistler Blackcomb has given us over the years, which is phenomenal," said WBF director Mei Madden.

New Whistler Blackcomb COO Pete Sonntag reiterated that commitment, saying that the Broomfield, Colo.-based company is even exploring how the foundation's model can be transplanted to Vail's other properties.

"I think this is one of many examples we're going to find where what's happening in Whistler Blackcomb can be replicated elsewhere. I can't tell you now exactly what that's going to look like, but I know we're going to learn from our experience from the Foundation and we're going to be able to apply those learnings (sic) at our other resorts," he said.

In 2015, Vail Resorts launched its EpicPromise Foundation, a public charity that supports and offers educational scholarships to the company's employees. This is in addition to the work done through its EpicPromise program, which grants millions of dollars a year in charitable donations to 250 local non-profit partners. Sonntag said the company is currently looking at where the two foundations may overlap.

"What we're trying to do right now is figure out what pieces fit where, not wanting to have redundant efforts, and making sure the end goal is really what driving the effort and not what's (the foundation) is called or anything like that," he noted.

The WBF is the Sea to Sky's largest fundraising organization, handing out over $12 million in grants to deserving charities since its founding in 1992. Over the years, the non-profit has built up tremendous support in the region from both the public and corporate sponsors.

"I find that our local community is super supportive, down to our volunteers, down to the businesses that give. I'm not familiar with how the American resorts work, so I don't know if it would translate as well. But for us, we make a phone call and everyone says 'yes.' It's pretty amazing," said Madden.

It's meant the WBF has been able to expand the scope of local causes it supports across the corridor.

"We do small grants and we do large grants, so it allows us to look at everything from the small community soccer club looking for a $5,000 grant, to our bigger grants — the biggest grant was when we gave $500,000 to the Audain (Art Museum) endowment fund," recalled Madden. "It certainly allows us to try and help more and more, and all around the Sea to Sky corridor... We're able to help pretty much anyone who applies to us."

The community opened up its wallets on Sept. 15 for the WBF's annual summer fundraiser, the Telus Golf Classic, raising over $200,000. So far this year, the foundation has already raised close to $1 million, Madden noted.

Its winter fundraiser, the Telus Winter Classic, is scheduled for March 9 and 10. The next deadline for community groups to apply for WBF grants is Oct. 1. Learn more at www.whistlerblackcombfoundation.com/funding.html.

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