Vail Valley Volunteer of the Year
Volunteer of the Year
2000 Kim Bender
2001 David Ozawa
2002 Barb Treat
2003 Dick Pownall
2004 Bill Douglas III
2005 Tenie Chicoine
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
2017 Jan Hiland
2018 Tenie Chicoine
Most everyone who has witnessed
Memphis jookin’ icon Lil Buck perform at the Vail Dance Festival over the years is impressed if not enamored with the dancer. And you have Tom Russo to thank, at least in part.
“I like to joke I brought Lil Buck to Vail for the first time,” said Russo who picked Charles “Lil Buck” Riley up from Denver International Airport in 2011 and drove him to Vail as part of Tom’s duties as a Dance Festival volunteer.
It’s one of many long-standing contributions Russo has made to the community since the early 2000s.
This year, the Vail Valley Foundation announced that Tom Russo is the 2019 recipient of the Vail Valley Volunteer of the Year award.
The award is given out each year to a deserving person who has contributed volunteer time, effort, and vision to the entire Vail Valley community.
Russo was honored at 12:15 Sunday at the Xfinity Birds of Prey, before the second run of the Giant Slalom, and will be celebrated throughout the year as an excellent example of the volunteer spirit of our valley.
“We are fortunate to live in a community with a phenomenal volunteer spirit, and Tom embodies that perfectly,” said Mike Imhof, President of the Vail Valley Foundation.
Russo has volunteered for the Vail Valley Foundation’s Vail Dance Festival, Birds of Prey Talon Crew, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and the Vilar Performing Arts Center. His volunteer contributions also extend to other nonprofit organizations like the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, the Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale, and more, for more than 16 years.
“Over the years, Tom has diligently worked as a volunteer not only for the Vail Valley Foundation but also for other important organizations around the Valley, always bringing his analytical mind to every job and focusing on how to do it better,” Imhof said. “Tom gives tirelessly of his time and energy, is an invaluable extension of each nonprofit organization’s staff, and we’re so lucky he found his way to the Vail Valley in 2003 shortly after he retired,” Imhof said.
For Russo, he’s been fond of the Vail Valley Foundation and its mission from the get-go, he said.
“The Foundation does so many great things between the cultural, the athletic and the education work; it’s something that I really like being affiliated with,” he said.
After retiring from his job as a corporate attorney for DuPont and Conoco, a position that allowed him to live in Delaware and Texas, as well as in Tokyo, Moscow and Norway, Russo moved to Beaver Creek full time in January 2003. He purchased a condo in Beaver Creek back in 1989 after a serendipitous meet-up in Tokyo, where he lived at the time. He’d been drinking coffee with a friend who told him the Vail Valley was the “only place to ski.” When he returned to the States for a wedding soon after, he visited Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Bend, Oregon; and the Vail Valley.
As his friend had predicted, the Vail Valley was the best of them all, Russo said. “Turns out he was right, it was totally fortuitous.”
Russo joins a group of distinguished members of the community who have received the award since 2000.