Volunteer Spotlight: Ellen Miller

Ellen Miller (pictured here with Colleen Gray, Director of The Literacy Project) is an internationally renowned mountaineer with a gift for putting her unique talents to work for her community. She created The Climb for Literacy fundraiser in 2008 as a way for children to channel their passion for climbing into an event that would promote literacy, while also benefiting those less fortunate or reading challenged.

Here at The Literacy Project of Eagle County, we are thrilled to be one of the beneficiaries of the climb, which took place November 18-19 at the Vail Athletic Club. Our organization will share the proceeds from the event with another local cause for literacy, the Vail Pet Partners Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program.

“I created Climb for Literacy in 2008 because I love the Vail Valley and climbing,” explained Miller, the first American woman to summit Mt. Everest from both the north and the south sides.  “I wanted to teach young climbers how to use their climbing skills to help other people. In essence, it’s kids climbing to help other kids.”

This year, the Vail Athletic Club climbing team climbed vertical feet on an indoor climbing wall for donations, while The Mountain Divas & Dudes, one of Miller’s motivational outdoor fitness groups, climbed mountains to raise funds for the causes.

Since its inception, The Climb for Literacy has benefited several organizations, both locally and internationally. As Miller explained, “I chose the Literacy Project of Eagle County because I believe it is a natural fit. We are not a huge fundraiser, but I know that several thousand dollars can go a long way with the Literacy Project!  In years past, I have sent funds raised to Nepal and Afghanistan, but now I prefer to serve members of my own community.”

When asked if she has a Climb for Literacy participant that stands out from the rest, Miller names young climber Sage Evans. “Sage stands out year after year because she is our top fundraiser! She climbs many vertical feet and is very dedicated seeking sponsors for her climbing effort. After each event, I present her with a silk khata (scarf) from Nepal and we have hot chocolate at The Bookworm of Edwards.” It has become an annual treat that they both enjoy.

When asked what literacy means to her, Miller states her firm belief that every child deserves the opportunity to learn to read. “Knowing how to read and write is a precious gift,” she said. She has had the gratification of seeing the money raised during the Climb for Literacy make immediate impact throughout the valley. “I have seen the learning aids purchased, programs funded, and I have been contacted by parents whose children have benefitted from the programs that I raise funds for,” said Miller.

Grateful parents, grateful beneficiary! The Literacy Project of Eagle County wishes to thank Ellen Miller for once again supporting our mission with her leadership, time and unique talent.