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Jan Hiland named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ by Vail Valley Foundation

November 27, 2017, 11:20 am
jan hiland

Jan Hiland

Jan Hiland, the Vail Valley Foundation’s 2017 “Volunteer of the Year”, is a somewhat reluctant recipient who has a very simple philosophy when it comes to volunteerism.

“I really feel there are other people who have been volunteering as much if not more than me for many years in the Vail Valley,” said Hiland. “Of course, I am extremely surprised and honored, but I kind of look at life as holes that need to be filled. You jump in and you fill the holes.”

Filling holes can include almost anything, and in a quarter century of Vail Valley volunteering, Hiland has done virtually everything – from chairing Wild West Days early on and raising tens of thousands of dollars for local elementary schools to helping get Gypsum Middle School built to running events for the Vail Valley Charitable Fund to helping found Eagle County for Human Rights to volunteering for the Red Ribbon Project and Vail Resorts’ Epic Promise program.

But filling holes can also be much more than a mere metaphor. For Hiland it can literally mean patching up the costumes of world-class dancers as the Wardrobe Mistress for the Vail Dance Festival and calming the nerves of never-ever dancers in the same role with the Vail Valley Foundation’s incredibly successful Star Dancing Gala fundraiser every year.

“We kind of fulfill that mom support role backstage,” Hiland said. “We consider ourselves a MASH unit — Mobile Alpine Sewing Hospital — because I’ll pick up shop at the amphitheater and we’ll go to the Vilar, we’ll go to the Avon park, and I’ve been doing it long enough that I now consider the crew and the dancers my friends. It’s like coming back to camp or college.”

It all started with a daughter who danced and a friend who ran a dance school and volunteering for the remade Dance Festival at the Ford Amphitheater after the Bolshoi left and the festival was being successfully reinvented. Hiland volunteered in order to get tickets for friends and family but then started hanging out back stage with dancers and helping out on costumes with a couple of shoe boxes full of needles, thread and a steamer.

Many years later, and many generations of volunteers and dancers later, Hiland is the officially titled and fully and professionally equipped Wardrobe Mistress who also doles out oxygen and water for professional dancers impacted by Vail’s altitude and dry atmosphere. But she’s not interested in credit for that role because it’s been more about brining young dancers together.

“I just feel dance is so important, because it helps you in all other facets of your life,” Hiland said. “To me, it’s important if the dancer goes on stage and comes off the stage in the same outfit that they’re supposed to with nothing hanging out, then my job is good, but the great, great joy is with these young dancers and introducing them to the world of dance.”

Hiland, whose day job is as a senior administrator for Beaver Creek Mountain Operations (a role her daughter says earned her the title of “Queen Beav’”), is now an integral part of the Vail Valley Foundation Dance Festival team after those early volunteer days starting in 2001.

“She is without a doubt the No. 1 dance mom in the biz!” said Martha Brassel, director of development for the Vail Dance Festival. “The dancers love her, she manages all the nips and tucks backstage as well as calming the nerves and boosting their confidence before they hit the dance floor. We could not do what we do at either the Dance Festival or the Vail Valley Foundation’s key annual fundraiser – the Star Dancing Gala – without Jan Hiland. We love her!”

Hiland has helped avoid some potentially disastrous wardrobe malfunctions over the years. Maybe not quite on the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime scale, but close.

A group of South American dancers who were working their way through the history of the tango but not used to so many costume changes once saw their side-slit dresses split all the way up to their bellybuttons. Some quick thinking, a trip to Walmart and a sew job that attached underwear to dress, and the day was saved.

“It could have been a whole different kind of show,” Hiland joked. “During the Dance Festival I swear I’m at WalMart every 10 minutes. But my belief is doing whatever we can do to make the dancers feel the most comfortable, so that they can just shine on stage.”

Asked what she’s most proud of as a volunteer, Hiland launches into stories from 30 years ago on a topic that made a lot of folks in notoriously conservative Colorado Springs decidedly uncomfortable. Hiland grew up in the state’s hotbed of religious family values, but leaped full force into volunteering on behalf of the city’s LGBT community when her brother Eric came out.

When Colorado passed Amendment 2 (No Protected Status for Sexual Orientation) in 1992, Hiland volunteered on a statewide basis to promote gay rights and combat discrimination. Her parents, former part owners of Pikes Peak ski area, changed political party affiliation and her father was the first emcee of Colorado Springs’ inaugural gay pride parade. Though they lost a lot of Broadmoor friends, they also made a big difference promoting tolerance, and Hiland discovered some likeminded folks closer to home in Eagle County.

“[Amendment 2] was absolutely devastating for my family, and lo and behold there were some folks in the valley – [Youth Foundation founder] Susie Davis among them – who were as upset as I was, and they got together for a candlelight vigil, I got involved with them, and Eagle County for Human Rights was born,” Hiland recalled, reminiscing about her daughter and nieces rollerblading under the Eagle County banner in the Colorado Springs parade.

But no matter the cause, it’s all about filling the holes in life for Hiland … and doing it with style.

“The philosophy that we have is whatever you do, make it festive,” Hiland said. “Whatever needs to be done, and if you have the time, do it. I never had a lot of money to donate, but I can donate me and my time. You need the money people, but you also need some of the doers, and I like being involved. I have FOMO, which is Fear of Missing Out.”

Past Vail Valley Foundation “Volunteer of the Yea” recipients:

2000       Kim Bender

2001       David Ozawa

2002       Barb Treat

2003       Dick Pownell

2004       Bill Douglas III

2005       Tenie Chicione

2006       Fred Hassle & Jim Sanders

2007       Susan Frampton

2008       Kathryn Benysh

2009       Cheryl Jensen

2010       Doris Dewton

2012       Cookie Flaum

2013       Debby Jasper

2015       Brad Ghent

2016       Nancy & Mauri Nottingham

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

One Response to Jan Hiland named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ by Vail Valley Foundation

  1. Michael Beckley Reply

    December 3, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Oh my heavens how wonderful. Jan was my admin for years and I adored her. Truly a great amazing human.

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