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Highlands Ranch

Local pet store raises money for avalanche rescue teams

Chuck and Don's is accepting donations through the end of July


Connor Kuybus lost his dad to an avalanche three years ago. Still, the 16-year-old has a positive outlook on life. An avid skier and outdoorsman, Kuybus enjoys learning new activities and keeping busy at work. And when his employer announced its annual fundraising campaign, he said he couldn't have been happier.

“I really enjoy being able to raise money for something that is so close to me,” said Kuybus, who works at Chuck and Don's Pet Food and Supplies, 4008 Red Cedar Drive, in Highlands Ranch.

For the month of July, all nine metro area Chuck and Don's locations are taking donations for Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment (C-RAD), a nonprofit organization started in 2016 by Flight for Life Colorado to train avalanche deployment teams, which consist of a snow technician or patrol, a dog handler and an avalanche rescue dog. To date, Chuck and Don's Colorado stores have raised about $25,000.

The pet store picked the organization for its Raising Awareness campaign, an annual effort to give back to the community. Since its inception in 2013, the campaign has raised nearly $540,000 for organizations in Minnesota and Colorado, where stores are located, according to a Chuck and Don's representative.

At a company meeting prior to the start of this year's campaign, Cecilia Auch, store manager of Chuck and Don's Highlands Ranch, came face-to-face with one of C-RAD's avalanche dogs. She described the cattle dog with its long tail and pointed snout as sweet and smart.

“What was so amazing is that in her 10 years she has rescued 60 people,” said Auch. “How often do you hear of a situation like that?”

Often at C-RAD, where dogs are essentially four-legged ski patrollers, its webpage says. They learn how to follow their noses and detect the scent of a human buried in snow. They are trained in riding chairlifts, snowmobiles and snowcats.

An avalanche dog is a vital part of the three-piece deployment team — it can search several acres in about 30 minutes, whereas it would take about 20 humans using avalanche probes four hours to cover a similar area, according to C-RAD.

C-RAD's members include ski patrollers and rescue team personnel of Summit County and surrounding mountain towns. The organization works with several counties to deliver help at a moment's notice: at 15 minutes, about nine in 10 people buried in an avalanche can survive, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center. By 30 minutes, only 50 percent survive.

Funds raised by Chuck and Don's, which can be made at any location until July 31, will provide scholarship opportunities for C-RAD members to attend training programs across the U.S. and go towards upcoming courses held in Summit County.

Training opportunities strengthen C-RAD's deployment teams, said Doug Lesch, outreach coordinator of C-RAD.

“We all dove into this world because of the passion to work alongside other professionals and amazing dogs in finding people in the snow,” Lesch said. “It is because of the support of organizations like Chuck and Don's, as well as communities all over the state, that we have been able to provide outstanding training opportunities and courses designed to bring our deployment teams to the next level."


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