Local News

Serendipity, mountains, and a fundraiser promise fun at Pico

By Karen D. Lorentz

An auction to support earthquake relief efforts in Nepal will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at Pico Mountain.

The benefit features fine art photography and other wonderful auction items, a raffle, and a chance to learn more about Nepal.

Organizers Bryan and Denise Cupoli of Rutland came up with the concept of a “Mountains to Mountains, people to people” benefit and chose the Tara Foundation as the recipient and vehicle through which funds will be used to help people affected by the April/May earthquake.

“We are connecting our mountains to Nepal’s mountains, our people to the Nepali people. The weight of their catastrophe is unlike anything most of us have ever seen or will ever experience. This is an opportunity for all of us to truly make a difference in someone else’s lives,” Denise Cupoli said in a prepared statement.

Bryan Cupoli explained that they chose to collaborate with Tara due to its being a regional organization with established contacts in Nepal who directly oversee all projects.

Benefit details

Jim Block, a professional photographer from Etna, N.H., who has traveled to Nepal four times with Leeli Bonney, the founder of Tara Foundation, has donated a selection of his photographs to help support efforts in the villages where he traveled. The fine art prints will be available in a variety of sizes ranging from medium prints on wood to large custom framed photographs up to 4 feet wide.

“Our committee carefully selected a balanced representation of Nepal from Jim’s vivid landscapes, serene stills, and cultural depictions of Nepal,” Denise Cupoli said.

Among many other donated auction items are ShackletonThomas pottery, a private catered dinner for eight by Roots Restaurant, a trekking kit from Peak Performance Ski Shop, a limited edition print by Peter Huntoon, a year’s pass at the Green Mountain Rock Climbing Center. Auction previews will begin at 12-noon and bidders do not have to be present to win.

Items donated for a raffle include a Pico Mountain season pass, a pair of Volkl skis, a Hubbardton Forge floor lamp, and a two-night stay at the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, N.Y.

There is no admission to attend the benefit, which is open to all, and attendees can enjoy free hors d’oeuvres donated by Rutland and Killington restaurants and a cash bar.

Denise Corielle told The Mountain Times that 100 percent of the proceeds raised from the auction will be used to support rebuilding efforts in Nepal by the Tara Foundation. Corielle is a Tara board member and has been active with the foundation since 2008.

The Tara Foundation

Tara Foundation USA has been helping in the Himalayan regions of Khumbu and SoluKhumbu, remote rural regions near Mount Everest, since the organization was founded in 2007. Prior to that, founder Leeli Bonney who had hiked in Nepal in 1999, had begun collecting fleece jackets to take to Nepalese children and had formed the Himalayan Children’s Project. Over 3,000 jackets were collected for children there, Corielle noted.

“Leeli kept going back and met Chhongba Sherpa who became her guide on her trips and helped her as she started to do other projects,” Corielle explained, adding that Bonney provided funding for many of the requested projects.

Tara has five board members who live in Vermont near Killington and in Norwich and two associate directors Chhongba Sherpa and Khari Tulku Tenzin Yonten who live in Nepal. They advise the board on which projects to fund and organize and supervise the work, which is done by the villagers whenever possible.

Serendipity and mountains

Denise and her husband Fred, owners of Peak Performance Ski Shop in Killington, were hiking Camel’s Hump in 2002 when they met Bonney, whom they knew slightly through their kids racing at Middlebury College. Bonney, who hails from New Hampshire, told them about collecting fleece jackets to take to Nepal.

“She offered to take us with her,” Denise Corielle said, noting that Nepal had been “on my bucket list as my brother and sister had been there. It was always an interest,” but it wasn’t until 2008 before Corielle went with her.

That first year she travelled with Jim Block and Bonney to the SoluKhumbu Region where many sherpas are located.

“We had six bags of fleece with us on the trek. After four days we arrived at a school with an arbor decorated with flowers and a sign welcoming Leeli and the Tara Foundation,” Corielle recalled.

The sight of the women and children “coming down the mountain to see the fleece lady, hooked me,” Corielle said, adding she went back the very next year.

On that trek to Khombu, she met Dr. Khari who had been asked by the Dalai Lama to build a medical clinic. Having visited the medical clinic which Tara helped fund, Corielle decided to “support and get involved with Tara.”

Tara-funded projects have included providing clean drinking water and toilets for schools, replacing rotting wooden poles with metal ones for power lines, completing a prayer hall, and building a steel cable suspension bridge over a river and stone bridges across smaller streams.

Going back “year after year,” has enabled Corielle to see the completed projects, which have given the villagers jobs. “They do the projects by hand. There’s no transportation besides walking. Materials are flown in to an airport and porters trek them to the places where projects are being done,” Corielle said. (Since there are no roads, everyone and everything still must travel on foot most of the time.)

The appreciation accorded to Tara members who are “always greeted and thanked with many cups of tea” are indicative of a people who, though impoverished, are willing to give and lead lives full of richness, Corielle said.

Earthquake efforts

Then the earthquake hit.

“Our guide Chumba Sherpa wrote ‘my country is broken but it will get better,”” Corielle related.

To date Tara has helped rebuild the doctor’s medical clinic, and provided materials for temporary shelters for nuns in the village of Thamo Lukla as well as for temporary shelters for 95 homes in the Solu region. Those materials will be reused to build permanent homes, Corielle noted.

The Sept. 19 benefit at Pico will further assist in rebuilding efforts.

Corielle said that she has been fundraising for Tara over the last few years through the ski shop and people they know. “People have been very generous, but this is the first outside fundraiser for Tara, and we are most grateful to Denise and Bryan and their committee who have organized this event,” she said.

So while the tremors continue and reconstruction and recovery will take time, anyone who would like to help can do so by bidding on items or purchasing raffle tickets.

Donations can also be made to Tara Foundation USA and sent to treasurer Sally Britton, 32 Douglas Ridge, Norwich, VT 05055.  (Note “earthquake auction donation” on the check.)

For more information visit www.tarafoundationusa.org.

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