Winter Park " Annual Lewandowski Ski Day set for Saturday at Mary Jane |

Winter Park " Annual Lewandowski Ski Day set for Saturday at Mary Jane

File photoMichael Lewandowski

Each year, a large group of skiers gather at the top of Mary Jane’s Gandy Dancer to pay tribute to one skier, a friend whose life passed fleetingly.

His name was Michael Lewandowski, and his memory is being carried out in the fight against brain cancer.

The Colorado native was active and well-loved. He was surrounded by friends who shared the same passion for skiing and the outdoors he had.

“He was a guy who lived by his strange convictions: cursing powder days, tantalizing us with his distinctive dance funk in the middle of the boogie circle, truly believing that his historic 1986 Toyota Tercel was indeed a babe magnet, taking the outcome of Bronco games to new emotional levels,” say friends on a Web page devoted to Lewandowski.

He was a freestyle skier; his favorite run on the mountain was Gandy Dancer.

According to his mother, between treatments following his diagnosis, skiing became his lifeline.

His battle with brain cancer ended at age 28 on Nov. 13, 2003. A lemon-sized brain tumor in his right temporal lobe had put him through three surgeries and a barrage of radiation treatments as well as chemotherapy.

Gripped with loss, his friends and family have rallied ever since to find the cure that would have prevented Michael’s senseless struggle and subsequent death.

Brain cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in males ages 20-39, and as many as 50,000 patients both male and female presently are fighting the disease in the U.S.

This year, the Lewandowski family and close friends hope to raise $20,000 during the one-day annual fundraiser at Mary Jane on Saturday.

For five years the event consistently has provided support to The National Brain Tumor Foundation,, a non-profit organization that supports research. Since 1983, the foundation has provided more than $5 million in funds to the cause. NBTF also provides information and support to patients, their families members and friends.

During Lewandowski Day 2007, during which 130 people took part, $19,000 was raised and contributed to the foundation’s Oglio Fund, which is being used to help researchers identify and eliminate tumor stem cells. It is believed that removal of these cells will greatly reduce the chance of recurrent tumor activity.

According to NBTF, “this would be a monumental step toward finding a cure.”

The Lewandowskis are from Evergreen. Carol and Al introduced skiing to their son Michael when he was just a toddler. At age 4, he embraced the sport.

Years later, he competed in collegiate freestyle skiing at Evergreen State in Washington, then later at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder, four years after he was diagnosed with the disease.

The positive event in honor of Michael was originally spearheaded by Michael’s sister, Sara Lewandowski and friend Julie Abrams. Winter Park Resort has partnered with event organizers, providing discounted lift tickets and event space.

For those interested in joining in the fight against brain cancer, Saturday’s registration for the Michael Lewandowski Memorial Ski Day takes place at Pepperoni’s Pizzaria at the base of Mary Jane mountain starting at 8 a.m.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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