“BOEC is life-changing” is a narrative we have heard since our founding days in the early 70s and this is certainly true for several young individuals who arrived in Breckenridge for their internship class and ended up finding the love of their life. For this February issue, we share the story of LOVE, a common theme of the BOEC overall, but more specifically for individuals whose sparks ignited through shared experiences across BOEC programming. It makes sense that young, hard-working, passionate, like-minded adventurers caring for others would fall in love in the mountains of Breckenridge, right!?

Through this jaunt down memory lane of previous interns, classes, and course instructors, we have uncovered dozens of stories of people who have met at the BOEC falling in love, so many in fact,  that we hope to continue sharing in future February issues.  For this Valentine’s Day special however, we focus on the group of lovebirds at the turn of the millennium which culminated in three marriages and lasting friendships for these couples. If you are interested in sharing YOUR BOEC LOVE story, please reach out to ([email protected]) as we would love to hear from you and continue to chronicle this important history!

The three couples who remain dear friends today include Justin and Dani (Smith) Kupperman, Dave and Robyn (Graber) Sutherland, and Bryan and Cindy (Wetherald) Shane.

Justin Kupperman - Dani Smith - Robyn Sutherland - Lisa Schulte- Kevin Campbell - Jeff Inouye

Justin and Dani’s were the first sparks to fly but they also explain some of their memories of meeting, not just each other, but all the interns that first week. Everyone was coming from different backgrounds and life circumstances. Dani, for example, had learned about the internship from a friend in physical therapy school who put her in touch with Robyn, Internship Coordinator at the time. Justin secured his spot at the very last minute as he was coming from the corporate world and just needed something different, especially after what the world was going through post September 11th. Dubbed “Mr. Business Man,” (actually I just called him that during our phone interview, he really wasn’t called that during internship) Justin reminisced that he knew he had made the right decision at the very first dinner hosted at the BOEC Old Cabin, “All these like-minded people came together and clicked immediately. We had such an amazing group with all sorts of different personalities.”

Both Dani and Justin reflected that the first week of internship training is an incredible opportunity to get to know people on a very deep level and bonds form quickly.  Dani admitted that the first week can be a little overwhelming navigating a new environment and forming intimate relationships with everyone coming from different experiences and levels of working with people with disabilities. As the winter days grew longer and Justin and Dani started conducting lessons on the hill together, it brought out a feeling of “I can do this!” There was no expectation to be perfect… The BOEC culture just made everyone comfortable.

They were super impressed with how the internship ran, the curriculum and the leaders, and how everyone worked together to bring out the best in each other. For their story, the experiences of the internship drew out who they were and this accelerated getting to know one another, and essentially falling in love.

Justin and Dani During Internship

Justin still admits, “The internship is the best thing I have ever done in my life- in addition to meeting mywife and having my kids”

As spring hit, Justin and Dani were officially a couple and had decided to stay in Breckenridge and continue working for the BOEC. They moved into “The Ladybug House” with fellow intern Bryan Shane and 1 other BOEC volunteer. Dani continued to work as a ski instructor for a couple of years and Justin dedicated time in the BOEC admin office helping with fundraising and finance.

After three years in Breckenridge together, Justin and Dani made several memories to share but one of the most memorable was getting engaged at the BOEC Old Cabin. Past intern-mate, Bryan Shane, was even summoned to go light all the candles and then exit the scene. Dani was under the impression that their entire crew of BOEC couples – Dave and Robyn (Graber) Sutherland, and Bryan and Cindy (Wetherald) Shane, and Justin – were all having a picnic up there together.

Soon after Justin and Dani were married they moved back to the East Coast to start a family. The BOEC’s influence not only sparked their relationship but their careers as well. Dani was able to get a job in Boston with the Department of Veteran Affairs due to her time networking with folks at DAV conferences in Aspen while she was a BOEC instructor.

Justin and Dani Spring Skiing at DAV Snowmass

Showing their kids Layla and Bryce, The BOEC Old Cabin where Dani and Justin got engaged!

They both share that BOEC has 100% shaped who they are and how they had this grand plan to remain in the ski frame of mind but the hustle and bustle of life sometimes gets in the way.

This was especially true as Justin cared for his young bride who had also just given birth to their son, Bryce in 2006.  Life was moving really fast, for they met in 2001, got married in 2005, and had their son in 2006. Just a couple weeks after giving birth to Bryce, Dani was diagnosed with breast cancer. She explained how amazing it was to have Justin take such wonderful care of her, even her family was in absolute awe of how he stood by her side every step of the way. Justin said, “We knew each other so well- I don’t even know how to put it into words- I just took care of her and helped with the challenges’ just like we learned how to do with participants.” After a double mastectomy, the help of some of the best medical teams in the country, and Justin as a caretaker, Dani fully recovered and has been in remission ever since. She even gave birth to her daughter Layla in 2011.

Dani (middle) and The Intern Group

Dani, Layla, Bryce, Justin skiing as a family.

As a family, they try to get back to their BOEC roots through skiing together and continue their contributions to BOEC, as well as keep in touch with several other couples they met during those first seasons in Breckenridge.

Dani concludes, “For our relationship long term, BOEC helps us get through tough times because we know where each other is coming from and what we have been through. BOEC love helps guide us.”

The BOEC is extremely grateful for the love that was kindled between the Kuppermans in the early 2000s and glad this spark has been life-changing, not only for them but for everyonet they encounter.

As mentioned above, this is just the first story of many that we’ve learned about in researching LOVE at the BOEC. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] to share the love!

The Kupperman Kids have been in ski boots since age 2!