Carol and George Solich, of Denver, took tragedy to community impact. The Jeff Sands Memorial Blue Skies Fund was established in 2003 in memory of Jeff Sands to honor his legacy and many accomplishments in the skydiving business in Longmont. The mission of the Fund is to support qualified organizations in Longmont and Boulder County more widely working in youth development and recreation, health and human services, disaster relief, employment training and job creation, and general community needs and enhancements. Leveraging the work of the Community Foundation’s Community Trust Program, the Jeff Sands Memorial Blue Skies Fund continues to be advised by the original group of Jeff’s family and friends convened 20 years ago. This group includes business leaders throughout Boulder County. The Fund is celebrating 20 years and has distributed over $1M.
Tell us about the Jeff Sands Memorial Blue Skies Fund.
We created the Blue Skies Fund after Carol’s brother, Jeff Sands, was killed in a plane crash in 2003. Jeff had chosen Longmont for his business, Mile-Hi Skydiving, and we wanted to turn this tragedy into something positive for his community. Monies from every skydive go into the Fund which goes towards supporting annual grants to health and human services, disaster relief, employment training and job creation, and general community needs.
How does Community Foundation Boulder County support your vision?
The great people at Community Foundation Boulder County have helped guide us since 2003. Since we don’t live in the Boulder/Longmont area, they recommend to us the organizations in the most need through the well-established Community Trust. This is the most trusted community informed resource that has a pulse on the entire community.
When you reflect on the Funds 20 years of impact on Boulder County, what stands out to you?
We’ve been lucky enough to make a significant impact on several community organizations. Two in particular we partnered with are:
1) OUR Center providing provides a safe, accessible place for families to connect with comprehensive, coordinated services that help them strengthen their families and self-reliance. We are so grateful the OUR Center staff is so in tuned with the community and have the ability to work one-on-one with families to help them set and achieve transformative goals in their lives.
2) Front Range Community College where we created scholarships for students in integrated machining and geological information systems. We find great joy in filling a critical pipeline for industry, while at the same time changing lives of the scholarship student recipients and their family.
What makes the Jeff Sands Memorial Blue Skies Fund committee/board so special?
We are so grateful for our board who have stayed with us for almost 20 years. All of them are successful professionals who live in the Boulder/Longmont area, so they are plugged into the needs of the community. Most of them were friends and business associates of Jeff’s as well. We really value their insights and opinions.
Tell us about the recent anniversary celebration.
The Fund celebrated 20 years and over $1M distributed this year in partnership with the groundbreaking of the Longmont Museum expansion in September with a key gift to the expansion effort. A space will be named to honor Jeff and the 20th anniversary as part of the expansion.
The entire advisory board was so gratified to see many of the attendees who are beneficiaries of the Jeff Sands Blue Skies Memorial Fund over the years. We were able to meet them in person and hear updates about how our gifts have helped them help the community.
At the celebration, the Mile-Hi Skydiving team flew a missing man formation in honor of Jeff. It was an emotional and celebratory moment for all.
What gives you the most hope for the future of Boulder County?
Our hope is that Boulder County continues to flourish and that Mile-Hi Skydiving can keep contributing to that success. We want to continue to be a positive, supportive light that the community can count on.
Where does the “blue skies” come from in the memorial funds name?
The name of the fund was chosen honor Jeff and, also, capture the tradition of saying goodbye within the skydiving community, which is to say, “blue skies,” instead of “see you later.” Jeff loved his business and sport of skydiving as well as the greater Boulder County Community.