Donations flood in for Sarah Burke's family
Published Friday, January 20, 2012 10:02PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:12AM EDT
Sarah Burke's family says it has not yet received a bill from the Utah hospital where the freestyle skier underwent surgery before she died Thursday, but that a flood of donations has ensured they "will not have any financial burden related to her care."
A website for donations, giveforward.com/sarahburke, was set up by Burke's agent Michael Spencer, who set a fundraising goal of $550,000 for medical costs and "related expenses."
A statement issued through the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association on Friday clarified that Burke's medical expenses would likely be around $200,000, although her family has not received a bill yet from the University Hospital in Salt Lake City, where the 29-year-old was treated after she crashed during training.
"Based on early estimates, total charges for Sarah's care are expected to be approximately $200,000. Once charges are finalized, the University will work with Health Canada to determine what type of coverage may be available and what their contribution will be, as Sarah is a Canadian citizen," the statement says.
"Because of the donations in the last day, it is now clear that Sarah's family will not have any financial burden related to her care."
The statement goes on to say that further contributions will be used to establish a foundation to "honor Sarah's legacy and promote the ideals she valued and embodied."
Burke sustained a fatal injury in what has been described as a freak accident during a training run at the Eagle Superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah on Jan. 10. The event was sponsored by Monster Energy Company.
Some of Burke's fans and fellow athletes are wondering why Monster Energy isn't helping her family cover the medical costs.
Former Canadian Olympian Marnie McBean tweeted Friday: "Why isn't @MonsterEnergy paying #SarahBurke's medical bill? Where's their insurance & support now?"
Her questions were echoed by many others on Twitter and Facebook, with some users suggesting the company has a moral responsibility to help Burke's family.
In response to questions about Burke's insurance coverage, the CFSA issued a statement saying association athletes and coaches are insured for all activities that fall within the Canadian team program, whether here or abroad.
However, "the inclusion into the Olympic Games Sport program has produced a period where halfpipe and slope style skiers are transitioning from being wholly independent professional athletes to members of full-service national team programs," the statement says.
"There are occasions where athletes are involved in private sponsor training, photo shoots and events which operate outside of the National Team program and mandate."
It is not known whether Monster Energy had a policy in place to cover hospital bills for injuries sustained in its events. When contacted by CTV News Friday, the company refused to comment. It has posted a photo of Burke on its website, with the message: "Best wishes to Sarah Burke and her family. We love you Sarah!"
Burke, considered a trailblazer for her sport, underwent extensive surgery but imaging later showed she had suffered serious brain damage due to a torn artery that cut off the flow of oxygen to her brain.
The British Columbia Ministry of Health says it will cover a small portion of Burke's medical bills. Burke hailed from Barrie, Ont., but lived in Squamish, B.C.
"While temporarily absent from B.C., our Medical Services Plan (MSP) will help reimburse unexpected medical services received anywhere in the world, provided the services are medically required, rendered by a licensed physician and normally insured by MSP," the B.C. Ministry of Health said in an emailed statement.
However, it noted that coverage for out-of-country medical services is limited to MSP fee rates and that the province only pays up to $75 per day for in-patient hospital services – much lower than the typical cost of care outside Canada.
The ministry also said it has not been contacted by Burke's family or the CFSA.
"However, we have been in touch with the University of Utah Health Care Center to notify them of the coverage we would provide," it said.
The fundraising website describes Burke as a "legendary athlete, role model and an inspiration" and says she was Canada's first competitive female freeskier who successfully lobbied the Winter X Games to include women in the freeskiing discipline.
And it was her work lobbying sporting associations and advocating for the sport, the site says, that led to freeskiing's inclusion in the 2014 Sochi Olympics -- an event where she was expected to have been a favourite.
"Her accomplishments on skis continue to inspire girls everywhere to believe in themselves and follow their hearts," the site says.
"Her passing is not a cause to pack up our skis, but rather a reason to step-in and ski for Sarah and the dreams that inspired her star to shine."