It wasn’t so much the tutu, but the margarita glasses on her helmet that made Linda Robertson and her friends stand out on the ski hill. The “Margarita Mamas” were vying to win a costume contest as part of a charity event at Winter Park Resort. They accomplished that — and managed to raise the most money in the lift lines.
That was nine years ago, and Robertson is still taking part in Jane-A-Thon, an annual ski and snowboarding fundraiser for Invest in Kids. This year’s event — March 1 and 2 — marks its silver anniversary.
Over the past 25 years, Jane-A-Thon has raised more than $2 million, helping Invest in Kids serve 131,000 children and 42,000 parents. The statewide nonprofit partners with all 64 counties to implement programs that lift families and children through age 5 out of poverty.
“We focus on two-generation programs, meaning that we work with a caregiver and/or a parent and a child in service to the child and the family outcomes,” said executive director Lisa Hill. Those evidence-based initiatives include the Nurse-Family Partnership, which pairs registered nurses with first-time parents experiencing poverty; Child First, a home-based, mental-health-focused intervention; and Incredible Years, a social and emotional skill-building program for kids, caregivers, and their teachers.
“There’s a significant avoidance of future cost as a consequence of moving upstream, focusing early in a child’s life and giving families the resources they need,” Hill said.
Jane-A-Thon participants are required to pay a $25 registration fee and raise a minimum of $175. Otherwise, they can make the event their own, hanging out in the lodge, casually skiing, or aiming to complete one of the challenges, such as schussing down all of the blue runs. “It’s designed for all abilities,” says event founder and Invest in Kids board chair Eric Hilty.
He was among the volunteers who established Invest in Kids in 1999. At the time, he was a lawyer, as were a number of the others. They were “sick of seeing kids in the juvenile justice system,” Hilty said, “and thought we could do better by adopting prevention programs early on in life.” But they needed funding.
In the winter of 2000, 16 people headed to the Mary Jane section of Winter Park Resort and attempted to check off all of the mogul runs (there are 16) in a single day. They asked people to donate per run they completed and raised $10,000. Jane-A-Thon was born.
Last year’s event had 440 participants and raised $343,000.
Despite the growth, it’s still “a homegrown, quintessential Colorado event,” Hill said.
Among the more sophisticated touches that have been added over the years. The resort now provides discounted lift tickets for participants, and Christy Sports donates free rentals for those who need them. The fundraiser has also expanded to two days, with Friday serving as a corporate day and Saturday open to any skiers or snowboarders. Participants enjoy a welcome breakfast and après ski party and receive a specially designed baseball cap and shirt. There are prizes for raising the most money and for costumes.
Robertson’s team usually takes home the latter. The 60-year-old has changed her getups over the years. Last year, the team she captains went as the “Skivengers.” This year they’re the “Pow Pow Princesses.” It’s about “having fun while raising money for a great cause,” she says. “I’m hoping to be skiing when I’m 80.”
If the organizers have a say, Jane-A-Thon may still be going strong when that day comes, too.
Interested in joining Jane-A-Thon 2024? Sign up at jat24.causevox.com. Participants can technically sign up until the day of, but Invest in Kids is asking for registration by Feb. 15 if possible.
Daliah Singer is a freelance writer.
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