Episode 83 – Summer Andersen, Adam Andersen Avalanche Project
Tragedy Turned to Service
The evening after her husband's funeral, Summer Andersen was inspired to do something so that no other family had to feel the pain she and her family were going through. Days earlier on January 10, 2018, her husband, Adam, was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the Mt. Jefferson area of Island Park.
She knew if more individuals had access to avalanche gear, such as a beacon, their chances of being found if buried were exponentially increased. As she talked to individuals about her idea it grew and became the Adam Andersen Avalanche Project. “We offer free gear for people to use which includes an airbag, the beacon, a probe, and a shovel,” Summer said.
The cost of the avalanche kit can be cost-prohibitive to many and that becomes a barrier to owning them so she knew they needed to be readily available and free to use. The Project has raised funds through educational courses and donations and they have been able to make several kits available. Those kits can be found at High Mountain Adventures in Island Park, Idaho, or at Action Motor Sports in Idaho Falls, Idaho. “Completely for free people can come in and take them out for the day,” Summer explained.
In addition to the avalanche kits, she has also spearheaded placing warning signs at trailheads that provide website addresses to avalanche centers so that riders can check the condition of the snow and the avalanche danger. These have been placed in both Island Park and the Palisades area.
Every year Summer partners with Action Motor Sports who provide an open house to be able to purchase avalanche gear at a reduced cost they also check any gear that you may own to make sure canisters are full and beacons are working. “The community has always been so supportive and really receptive to what I'm trying to say and the message I'm trying to deliver,” Summer said. She typically pairs the open house with a fundraiser for the Adam Andersen Avalanche Project but she and her family were quarantined due to COVID-19 prior and she was unable to put it together this year. She plans to do an online fundraiser in the near future.
Adam and Summer met on a blind date when she was in college. On her way, he called to see where she was and one of the first things he said to her was, “You know what I just thought? If we get married your name will be Summer Andersen, how cool does that sound?” She promptly called her mom who told her not to go on the date. “He had the hugest, most fun, energetic personality and that was what I was instantly attracted to. For the almost 10 years we were together he made me laugh every single day,” Summer shared.
Adam and Summer had three children together. Dash, who was six at the time of his father's death, Atlas who was three, and Lake who was just 8 weeks old.
On the day of the accident, Summer saw a news alert that there had been a rider buried in an avalanche. Initially, she wasn't overly concerned but reached out to Adam to check on him and got no response. While on the phone with Freemont County Search and Rescue she received a call from one of the friends that Adam was riding with and once he said her name she instantly knew the buried rider was Adam.
They were unable to recover Adam that evening and had to return the next day. “In my gut, I knew he was gone,” she said. “I don't have words to describe the horror that that instills. It's a nightmare but amplified times a million. It was absolutely devastating,” Summer explained.
Summer said that Dash remembers his dad and often shares stories of him with his little sister. “Adam was a phenomenal dad,” Summer shared.
In navigating the grief that has come with this loss Summer joined a grief group to help her process her loss. “Grief is not something you do initially and then you're all done. You go back to each (grief) stage for periods of time and you don't know when those are going to come and some really strange things trigger you. It's not anything that ends on a timeline,” she explained. Summer said she's always been a big advocate for counseling and knew she needed it in her life.
“The avalanche project has been really good for me and my grief. It makes me feel a little bit better to think I could possibly save someone from that pain,” Summer said.
Reflecting on what she has learned through her journey she passionately explains that she knows she can do anything now. Her confidence in herself and her abilities is without question and she takes on any challenge knowing she'll come through on the other side.
One example of this is earning her real estate license and joining a local brokerage this year. She has had surprising success in the Island Park area and shared that she wonders if Adam is helping her out in his beloved country.
Having been a stay-at-home mom prior to Adam's death entering the job market has been an adjustment. “My job brings me so much fulfillment and I enjoy it. Especially for my daughter, I want her to see me succeed. I want her to know she can do anything,” she said.
The Adam Anderson Avalanche Project is always taking donations in the form of time or monetary donations. The Project is a non-profit and all donations are tax deductible.
To learn more and to donate please visit https://www.adamandersen.org/ and please follow the Project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AdamAvalancheProject to stay up to date on education and other events.
Business Leadership Moment
There's no business leadership moment this week. Renae did not want to take away from the impact of Summer's story and her mission. Please consider donating to this very worthwhile cause and take advantage of using the avalanche kits when you're out there enjoying our beautiful snow.