A smile to remember 

Flood of condolences and donations in wake of freeskier Sarah Burke's death

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DARREN ROBERTS - Sarah Burke

If family, friends and fans of Sarah Burke can take any strength from her passing it's the strength in numbers. Condolences have come in from around the globe, and from all walks of life — including millions of people who probably never heard of Burke before her untimely accident during a halfpipe training run on Jan. 10, but know a lot about her now. Few 29-year-olds lived as large or accomplished as much as Burke.

A Facebook page in her memory garnered almost 50,000 likes in a matter of days. Fans have posted compilation videos of her career, and tens of thousands of posts on Facebook and Twitter. When it looked like husband Rory Bushfield and Burke's family would be on the hook for her medical bills an online donation site raised close to $300,000 in less than a week — money that will also be used to create a charitable trust in her memory.

For Mike Douglas, who has known Sarah Burke since she first came to Whistler from her home in Midland, Ontario at the age of 14 to attend a Momentum Ski Camp seeing all the support has been gratifying.

"Speaking with the family, they've just been overwhelmed by all the positive things that came out of this and the support that's been shown through the Give Forward website," he said. "It's hard to say if there is any comfort in it, but there's a feeling like... Sarah was such an outstanding person in really every way you can be, and it's very satisfying to see the recognition that I felt she deserved all along as a human being. And to see her on the cover of all the papers nationally, and as the top story at every television station, it's a nice feeling because, like I said, she was just an outstanding person that transcended beyond the sport of skiing."

Douglas said her career as a skier, as incredible as it was, was not what he'll remember most about her.

"She did a lot of amazing sports feats and changed her sport, and got it into the Olympics and did all kinds of tricks first, but the really outstanding thing about her as a person was just who she was — she was gracious and humble and polite, and just everything you hope your daughter will be."

Douglas is currently at the X Games, where there will be a tribute to Burke tonight, Thursday, Jan. 26. It won't be aired on Canadian television, but will be covered by Canadian networks and posted online at www.expn.com. A Whistler memorial is planned in the near future when Burke's family sets a date that doesn't conflict with any ski events. "They want the whole ski family to be there," explained Douglas.

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