At 24 Hours of Schweitzer, relay teams ride the lift and pile up vert from dawn to dusk and dawn again. Last year, Matt Gillis competed solo, logging over 200,000 vertical feet at the Sandpoint, Idaho ski area. His motivation? A five-year-old boy named Henry “Hank” Sturgis. Hank has cystinosis, a rare disease that damages kidneys, the liver, and eyes.
To treat cystinosis, Hank takes medications every six hours. “The way the drugs make him feel is like being at your absolute most burnt-out moment every six hours,” says Gillis. It’s also a common feeling after skiing for 24 hours, which Gillis says helps people understand Hank’s condition. “It’s not a simulation,” he says, “but more of ‘a day in the life.’ “
Participants tapping into that feeling will help Gillis and the 24 Hours for Hank Foundation fund research for a cure. Because the disease affects only 2,000 people worldwide, funding is scarce. But last year, 120 skiers raised over $90,000 at 24 Hours of Schweitzer.
This winter, the foundation hosts two races: 24 hours of Sun Valley (March 23–24); and the fourth annual 24 Hours of Schweitzer (April 1–2). “This year I plan to do both events. I’m hoping to ski between 450 to 500 laps and raise over $30,000,” says Gillis. “It’s about the camaraderie and the emotional connections. Getting 130 people together skiing, snowboarding, and having a good time focusing on that cause is pretty cool.” —Gavin Gibson
For more information about 24 Hours for Hank events go to 24hoursforhank.org. To directly support Gillis’s effort, visit payinitforward.com. Check out schweitzer.com and sunvalley.com for more information on participating resorts.