Boston, MA, (Oct. 22) - Former NCAA ski champion Sally Knight Utter of Waitsfield, Vt., is the first East Coast regional finalist to be announced for the Texaco Star Award. Adopted as an infant, Utter has brought the same energy and drive she applied to her skiing to establish a summer day camp dedicated to assisting adopted children in developing trust and self-esteem. She was honored Oct. 22 at the New England Ski & Snowboard Ball at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.
The first annual Texaco Star Award honors the contributions of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team alumni to their communities. Five regional finalists - from the Midwest, Intermountain, Rocky Mountains, East and West Coast - have been selected. A $1,000 check will be presented to the charity of their choice. The winner of the Texaco Star Award will be chosen from the regional finalists with $10,000 being donated in his or her name to their favorite charity during the New York Ski & Snowboard Ball on Nov. 8.
"We commend Sally for drawing on her own life experiences to promote self-worth and confidence among adopted children, especially those with special needs," said Polly Rua, Manager of Sponsorships. "This Award, developed in partnership with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, symbolizes Texaco's commitment to recognize our responsibilities to the communities around the world in which we do business."
"I like this award because it acknowledges what people do besides skiing," said Utter who has designated Vermont Children's Aid Society to be the recipient of the $1,000 given in her name. "I'm very proud of Camp ForMe and the Society's supportive role with it; this gives everyone a good feeling and lets children be just that -- children.
Known to the ski world by her maiden name, Sally Knight competed for the U.S. Ski Team in the late - 1980s before enrolling at the University of Vermont where she was an All-America skier for four years. Utter won the collegiate giant slalom title in 1992 and was runner-up in '93. She graduated in 1993 with a degree in secondary education. After a pro racing career, Utter became director of alumni affairs at her high school alma mater, Vermont's Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS).
Throughout her career, Utter has been dedicated to helping children, especially adopted children. She worked with the Vermont Children's Aid Society through much of the 1990s and, in 1995, founded Camp ForMe, a week-long day camp for adopted children on GMVS' campus. The camp draws its name from a youngster who, before the camp was named, heard about the plans and said it sounded like it would be "a camp for me." Due to the success of Camp ForMe, a "sister" camp was created in 1999, Camp ForMe, Too, located in Poultney, Vt. In order to make these camps available to any adopted child who would like to attend, there is no charge. Funding for the camps is raised privately by Vermont Children's Aid Society.
"The first year of Camp ForMe was really hard emotionally. Some of these kids have been so abused at their home and then encountered problems in foster homes," said Utter. "I'm getting better but I'm still a puddle of tears at the end of the day. Seeing the changes in the children and their growth in compassion gets me through and it also gives me a great appreciation of my children." She and her husband, Steve Utter, have two daughters.
In addition, Utter says she gets a "double whammy" from her efforts because she not only works with the GMVS kids all year, but also sees some of them go on to the camp and come back to be camp counselors. Her ultimate goal is to have all the counselors come through Camp ForMe starting as campers moving up to leaders in training and eventually counselors. "Skiing is a very individual and selfish sport, and if you don't teach kids at a young age to give back and be appreciative, you have selfish kids going into the world who won't be grounded in reality."
The annuall New England Ski & Snowboard Ball, one of the premier fundraising events for the U.S. and Snowboard Team Foundation, was held Oct. 22 at Boston's prestigious Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. For more details, contact the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation at 435.647.2023 or 1.800.809.SNOW.