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2012 Boston: $150,000 for AAC Programs

Posted on: March 27th, 2012 by Erik Lambert

Click the image to see more photos in the gallery.

As salt water lapped at the cold mouth of Boston Harbor, hundreds of members and friends gathered in a cozy ballroom, drinks in hand, to celebrate the state of the American Alpine Club. This year’s Annual Benefit Dinner Weekend, held March 2 and 3 in Boston, was the most successful in Club history. And 110 years is a heck of a history.

The AAC raised almost $150,000 for its programs that support climbers—the most ever raised at a single event. It brought scores of climbers together: 200 for the member reception/slideshow on Friday, and 450 for the dinner on Saturday. Look one way and you’d see old friends connecting after decades lost. Look the other way and you’d find college students eagerly shaking hands with David Breashears.

Since you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance that the AAC has made an impact on your life. You might have gone to one of the 300 climbing/social events that the AAC hosted last year. You might have stayed at the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch, used a wag bag at Indian Creek, or ordered a guidebook from the AAC Library. But you might not have wondered how the AAC pays for all these benefits and programs beyond member dues.

“Interestingly, the Annual Dinner has changed a lot in the last several years,” AAC Executive Director Phil Powers said. “It has always been a way bring our tribe together, but it did not always raise money. We’ve worked pretty hard to turn the dinner into a real fund-raiser, and I’m proud of that. The dinner also gives us a reason to host events that weekend that every part of the climbing community can enjoy: slideshows, climbing, parties. In each of the last three years the dinner has connected hundreds of climbers while also raising good money. Money that we can turn around and spend on all the things that cost money.”

So thank you to all our members and everyone who attended the 2012 AAC Annual Benefit Dinner! You have helped to make the good work we do possible.

Keep reading for the inside scoop on next year’s Annual Benefit Dinner.

Highlights from the 2012 AAC Annual Benefit Dinner Weekend

Click the image to see more photos in the gallery.

•  This past weekend, Mark Richey, Steve Swenson, and Freddie Wilkinson were awarded the Piolet d’Or, the world’s highest climbing honor, for their first ascent of Saser Kangri II. This same trio—two of whom are AAC Past Presidents—were the keynote speakers and main entertainment at the dinner. They showed off the premiere of their expedition film, The Old Breed, as the night’s entertainment, capturing the spirit of tying in across generations on the world’s second-highest unclimbed peak. The team also gathered on stage after the film with AAC staffer and New England “rock star” John Bragg to discuss the expedition and answer questions from the audience. 

• Many of the AAC’s annual awards were presented at the dinner. These high honors recognize the importance and impact of our mountain leaders. Mark Richey received the Underhill Award for outstanding mountaineering achievement. Bernadette McDonald won the AAC Literary award; John Stannard and Guy and Laura Waterman the Brower Award for conservation; and Kyle Dempster the Bates award for outstanding achievement by a young climber (he accepted the honor in person last week at the Zanskar Odyssey film showing in Salt Lake City). And in a double surprise, Executive Director Phil Powers gave the Angelo Heilprin Citation (celebrating service to the AAC) to outgoing AAC Vice President Bruce Franks. Outgoing President Steve Swenson then turned around and awarded Powers with the same honor.

Northeast Regional Coordinator Sarah Garlick announced the launch of a new AAC grant that can truly turn any climber’s aspirations into reality. As opposed to cutting-edge or exploratory objectives, the new Live Your Dream Grants fund projects that have significant positive impact on grantees’ progressions as climbers—novice or veteran, young or old, from bouldering to big walls. These grants are applied for, administered, and awarded locally across the United States.

• Bid cards went flying just as fast as the auctioneer’s lively calls during an auction that featured Bradford Washburn’s signed piolet from his first ascent on Denali’s West Buttress, a portfolio of 10 limited-edition Washburn photogravures (courtesy of Decaneas Archive), a huge original oil painting by climbing artist Jamie Givens, and a South African safari. Afterward, more than a hundred generous supporters raised their bid cards to fund AAC programs, spurred by a $60,000 matching donation pledge. 

Click the image to see more photos in the gallery.

• Dinner attendees mingled among dozens of unique silent-auction items, talking about climbing while reaching for another drink from the bar. The two lucky winners of the AAC’s Annual Dinner Giveaway got special access to the VIP reception, along with their prize pack that included Petzl ice axes signed by the Saser Kangri II team.

• The morning of the dinner, 17 AAC Regional Coordinators and Section Chairs from around the country gathered at the first-ever AAC Section Summit to share experiences and ideas. You may have noticed a greater local AAC presence in your hometown as the AAC puts more effort into bringing local members and volunteers together to create vibrant climbing communities around the U.S. Going local is one of the tenets of the AAC’s new Five-year Plan, making it a major project that the Annual Benefit Dinner funds.

• As part of this local effort, AAC communities across the country were given the opportunity to host the 2012 Annual Dinner. When Boston was selected, local Club volunteers got to work to ensure this dinner would be memorable—a national event made possible for and by Northeastern climbers. Thank you to Mark and Teresa Richey and their entire Host Committee, Regional Coordinator Sarah Garlick, New England Section Chairs Nancy Savickas and Rick Merritt, dinner sponsor Global Rescue (based in Boston), auction sponsor ASOLO (based in New Hamshire), and the spirited volunteers from Dartmouth, Harvard, and across the Northeast.

• The 2012 Annual Member Meeting kicked off the festivities on Friday afternoon. More than 50 AAC members attended the meeting, voted to approve a slate of six new Board Members, and mingled before heading to a jam-packed Member Reception sponsored by Black Diamond with free food, drinks, and a slideshow of photos taken by dozens of local AAC members.

• Kurt Diemberger, the Austrian alpinist who is the only person to make first ascents of two 8,000-meter peaks, presented a stunning visual history of his expeditions to Dhaulagiri (8,167m), culminating in his 1960 first ascent, to a packed house on Friday night. Kurt spent some time with the audience afterward, answering questions and signing posters.

• David Roberts, Bernadette McDonald, Ed Webster, and Freddie Wilkinson hosted a special book-signing event before cocktail hour. The AAC also welcomed dozens of other notable climbers to the dinner, including Majka Burhardt, Matt McCormick, Jack Tackle, Rick Wilcox, Jimmy Surette, Jim Donini, George Lowe, Tom Hornbein, and Pete Ward, as well as media representatives from Alpinist, Climberism, and Backpacker magazines.

• Special 2013 Announcement: next year’s AAC Annual Benefit Dinner will be held in San Francisco! The weekend will celebrate and honor the 50th anniversary of American ascents on Everest. Check in regularly here on Inclined and on the AAC website for more information. 

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