Raising money and awareness in the valley
By Mark Reaman
Most of us here in Crested Butte ski, but 24-year-old Sofija Andrew is skiing with a purpose this January. That purpose is to raise money for children who are fighting cancer. As she did last year, Sofija is skiing every day in January and taking pledges and contributions that go to her best friend’s nonprofit organization, Heidi’s Heroes, which provides dolls and care packages to families with kids fighting cancer.
“So many people can relate to the loss that cancer brings, especially during the process of what treatment does to a person,” explained Sofija. “That is why cancer kids are called fighters or heroes: because they fight through something they shouldn’t have to, while so young. My friend Heidi Andringa is the founder of Heidi’s Heroes. We’ve known each other our entire lives. Through Heidi, I’ve learned and loved the stories and lives of so many kids. Not all of the kids made it, but they all greatly affected Heidi and did amazing things individually for raising childhood cancer awareness. Childhood cancer feels rare until it happens to you.
“My fundraiser is called Ski4Heroes, and the idea is simple,” continued Sofija. “I get out and ski every day in January (either downhill at the resort, backcountry, uphill touring or Nordic), share the word about my fundraiser to whoever will listen, and share information about childhood cancer. Raising awareness means as much to me as raising money does, because most people don’t know that there’s no scientific reason for a child to develop cancer but it’s the second leading cause of death in children. I want to encourage people to get out there and Ski4Heroes, for these heroes that deserve recognition and support for the fight they’ve been fighting.”
Sofija said she encourages people to make a pledge of a dollar per day so hopefully $31 total is contributed per person at the end of the month. However, she emphasized that no amount is too little, because every dollar adds up and helps out the organization. “There are other ways to help out to be involved without money, like donating dolls or doll clothes that Heidi uses in care packages,” she said. “The thing I’ve learned about fundraising is it works well as a long game, and I’m still early into the month, so who knows what donations will pop up?”
Sofija and Heidi were born two weeks apart and grew up together in Boulder. They became college roommates at CU Boulder. In 2013, Heidi came across the story of a three-month-old who was battling cancer. After learning about the lack of funding and awareness for childhood cancer fighters, Heidi began raising money that goes to care packages or American Girl dolls. That effort had an impact on Sofija.
“I actually have gotten the sweetest and most unique perspective of her work. I watched her passion for these kiddos come to fruition when Heidi did the work to make her organization into an official nonprofit,” she said. “I know so much about the effects of childhood cancer and the funding and research that it needs from sharing life proximity with Heidi, and it has also been a gift to see her heart for these children that are also her friends. That makes it all the more heartbreaking when one of them ‘gains their wings,’ because Heidi really cares about each person that she sends a package to or gets to meet in the hospital. We’ve gone to the American Girl Doll store in Denver together to buy packages for families, and it’s been a joy to see her deliver dolls to children’s hospitals and get to meet fighters face-to-face to give them their new best friend.”
This money raised goes straight to Heidi’s Heroes, which is currently operating out of Durango and Boulder. Last year Sofija raised $2,300.
“Families from all over the country can reach out for help, and I know Heidi has even sent some international dolls before. Why American Girl Dolls? They are a friend when a kid needs one, someone to come with them to the hospital to receive chemo and remind them that they are never alone. Heidi loves doll donations, where she can repair them for resale and use that money for buying new, clean dolls for fighters. She also gets lots of doll clothing donations, accessories, and hospital gowns are the best! Your doll can wear a matching gown with you while you go through your treatments.
“This month though I really am working on involving the local community better,” Sofija continued. “If there is a family in the valley that needs support as their child goes through treatment, or people know of a family, I’d love to make it known who Heidi’s Heroes is and how she can help. While Heidi is an art teacher in Durango, I call CB my home and I want to involve my local community in something I’m passionate about.”
Sofija, who has a full-time job in the local architecture community, said she feels fortunate to be living in Crested Butte where skiing is part of the lifestyle. Her mom is a ski instructor at CB Nordic and she is helping Sofija meet her daily goal. She is also getting support from other friends in the valley. That daily goal was tested recently when she skied before work and started out at -8 degrees.
“Heidi and I grew up skiing together, racing down moguls, pushing each other to do something scary, and enjoying this sport that as kids felt like the best freedom in the world. You can see that joy in that random 6-year-old here in CB that zips past you and does a backflip on Headwall or something. I feel lucky to have access to this sport that I love, and these kids that are sick or going through treatment don’t get that same experience,” Sofija concluded. “I feel so grateful for my health, and for the place I live. I would rather use my strengths of skiing and activity to an extent to help these kiddos and this organization than feel guilty about what I have been blessed with and do nothing. Plus, so many people ski up here and participate in winter activities that it is a great commonality for people who want to be involved in ski days. I could say a lot about fundraising, but the point is you do something that gets people’s attention and get them involved too!”
Sofija’s Ski for Heroes 2024 fundraising page is on Facebook and can be seen at: https://www.facebook.com/donate/889988446466749/. Heidi’s website is https://www.heidis-heroes.com and her Instagram is @heidisheroes.