Andrew Kurka competes in the men's downhill event at the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games on Mar. 10, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
There’s a place where physical distancing is easier than finding a crowd, the scenery is breathtaking and there’s a Paralympic gold and silver medalist just waiting to take people on a fishing trip they’ll likely never forget.
The place is Palmer, Alaska, and the athlete is alpine skier Andrew Kurka, and if that sounds enticing, it’s a trip that’s up for bid in the Adaptive Spirit Annual Event online auction. The in-person portion of the annual fundraiser, which was to be held at Vail Mountain in Colorado this weekend, had to be canceled in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but the organization is still holding its online silent auction through Friday, April 3. All proceeds benefit the Adaptive Spirit Athlete Partnership (ASAP) to help Team USA Para snow sports athletes with expenses not covered by the National Governing Body.
There are hundreds of items on which to bid, including a two-night fishing trip with Kurka, a lifelong Alaskan and fisherman.
“The fun thing about Alaska is we still have a very wild and majestic outdoor lifestyle,” he said. “When it comes down to it there are still places no one’s been before. One of my favorite things to do is to go out on the ocean, drop down some bait and you never know what you’re going to pull up. That’s super fun. You feel a bite at the end of your line and it could be a 300-pound halibut or a four-pound yelloweye or a 40-pound wolffish. You don’t know what’s down there.”
Kurka also loves taking people out fishing and seeing them get nervous and excited when they hook a big fish. This is the third year in a row that he’s offered his services for the auction. For the past several years he’s been working on building his own bed and breakfast that will cater to people with disabilities, which he hopes to have fully operational within a few years.
“A lot of people have seen Alaska and experienced Alaska whether from a cruise or just coming up to visit on vacation to check Alaska off the bucket list,” he said. “But not a lot get to experience Alaska from a local’s point of view. Having a bed and breakfast is something I’ve always wanted to do and something I love to do. I love for people to come up and visit so I can take them and show them the true allure of Alaska and all the fun things I got to do here growing up on a daily basis.”
This is the 25th anniversary of the Adaptive Spirit fundraiser, so having to cancel the skiing, parties, races, panels and other events was incredibly disappointing, said Adaptive Spirit Board of Directors Chairperson Steve Raymond.
“But the good news is that we’ve talked to most of our sponsors and they want to stay with us,” he said. “We’re also getting a lot of support with the silent auction, and that’s direct athlete support. That’s money that the athletes can request for additional expenses to make them better athletes, whether that’s travel, new equipment, additional training, anything that’s outside the team budget parameters. We are that resource, and that’s why the silent auction is so important.”
The silent auction typically brings in around $100,000, Raymond said. As of Tuesday, the bidding was already over $44,000, and things don’t usually heat up until the auction gets closer to its end, he said. They plan to do a Facebook Live session for the final half-hour, hosted by board member Brad Parobek and including Raymond and fellow board member Rich DiGeronimo as well as Para snowboarding gold medalists Noah Elliott and Brenna Huckaby. The streaming session will go from 4:30 to 5 p.m. E.T. on the Adaptive Spirit Facebook page.
Other auction items include a five-night stay at a Breckenridge, Colorado, townhome, a New York Yankees home game VIP experience for four, meetings and/or mentoring sessions with leaders from a variety of businesses and industries, speaking engagements with Paralympic athletes, tickets to concerts and sporting events, electronics, collectibles and gift sets.