Linda Bachman doesn't yet know whether Sarah Burke's family will need the money to pay medical expenses incurred during the freestyle skier's tragic ordeal at a hospital in Salt Lake City, or for other needs. She doesn't know all the legalities surrounding the acceptance of donations for Burke's family in the aftermath of the 29-year-old Squamish resident's tragic death on Thursday (Jan. 19).
The owner of the Portico Gallery on Pemberton Avenue in downtown Squamish just knows that Jan Phelan — Burke's mother — is her friend and fellow artist and that she wants to do something to help.
After she heard the tragic news of Burke's passing — followed by the revelation on Friday (Jan. 20) that the family might need to come up with some $200,000 (early reports put the figure at more than $500,000) in medical expenses Sarah incurred during her stay at University of Utah hospital — “That's when I said, ‘Well, we've got to do something,'” Bachman said.
It's a small gesture, Bachman admits, but she's planning to donate 10 per cent of all sales at the gallery from now until the end of February to help Burke's family meet its expenses.
As Bachman envisions it, “This would be made out directly to Jan to do as she wishes,” she said. “I don't know if I can do that; I'll have to speak to a lawyer about it, but that is in the intent.”
Phelan, a Squamish-based clay artist who has work on display at the Portico Gallery and elsewhere in the Sea to Sky Corridor, has been active on the Squamish arts scene for the past few years. She and Bachman sit together on the board of the Visuals Squamish Valley Artists group, and Bachman has displayed and sold Phelan's work in the two galleries she has run over the past few years.
Bachman said she knows Burke's passing — the result of a fall Burke took on Jan. 10 while she was training in a halfpipe in Park City, Utah — has left many Squamish residents profoundly saddened and looking for a way to show their support for Burke's family and close friends. She said she wouldn't be surprised to see others find their own ways to do just that.
“I just want to do it to support a friend and fellow artist,” Bachman said. “It's too close… it's just too close. It could happen to anyone, eh?”
It almost happened to Bachman, in fact. About five years ago Bachman's son Derek, then 24, suffered a head injury in a skateboarding accident in Vancouver and it was touch-and-go for several days in hospital.
“That 10-day period when you don't know — with tubes hanging out of them and what not — that waiting period when you don't know which way your child is going to go, that is the hardest time,” Bachman said.
“I was lucky. I got my son back. Jan didn't.”
She added, “Sarah has contributed so much through the years and this is just a small thing we can do to help her family at their time of need.
“Jan is just such a hard worker and is so dedicated to her work. I hope that her art can become art therapy for her at this difficult time.”
As of Friday afternoon, the website set up by Burke's publicist to collect donations to pay her medical expenses — www2.giveforward.com/saraburke.html — had topped the $200,000 needed for that purpose.
“Future donations will go towards post-hospital arrangements such as services and memorial costs and to establish a foundation to honour Sarah's legacy and promote the ideals she valued and embodied,” the site administrators wrote, offering their thanks to those who had donated.