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McCollum assists community campaign

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Will McCollum (left) and Erik Morrison (right) prepare “Montana Masks” for distribution to frontline workers, businesses and members of the Big Sky community. PHOTO COURTESY OF JUSTINE JANE PHOTOGRAPHY

Part-time resident bolsters Big Sky’s combative effort of COVID-19 

By Brandon Walker EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – While the Town Center Owners Association officially announced the STAY Big Sky campaign on May 29, the wheels were already in motion when the campaign received a $10,000 donation from part-time Big Sky resident, Will McCollum, along with other collaborative efforts. 

McCollum, who splits his time between Denver, Colorado and Big Sky, weathered the COVID-19 shutdown in his Moonlight home with his girlfriend, Kara Pearson. “We decided mid-March when things really went down that this is the safest place for us to be, as well [as] the best place for us to keep our wits about us and keep our morale’s high,” he said.

TCOA marketing and events manager, Erik Morrison grew close with McCollum while the pair recreated together during the shutdown. After Morrison shared his initial thoughts on the STAY Big Sky campaign with his new friend, McCollum donated funds to purchase “Montana Masks” for the community. Morrison estimated the money purchased roughly 3,000 masks that himself and McCollum began to distribute to frontline workers, local businesses and community members on June 2. 

McCollum passes off a box of “Montana Masks” to Visit Big Sky CEO Candace Carr Strauss. PHOTO COURTESY OF JUSTINE JANE PHOTOGRAPHY

McCollum voiced his appreciation and thankfulness for Big Sky, where the effect of the pandemic has been smaller in scale to areas with larger outbreaks, remarking on the ease of access to recreational opportunities that have kept him and Pearson active throughout the pandemic. 

“40 million people unemployed, there’s social unrest and America’s on edge and I just felt like this is a way that we could make a positive contribution to a community that hopefully can be a real refuge or respite to a lot of Americans who road trip to Big Sky,” he said describing the thoughts that went into his contribution. “So, if we can keep Big Sky open, I’m really hoping that our community can have a bigger ripple effect on all those visitors who really need a break.”

McCollum described that the masks are intended to help alleviate transmission in the event of a major outbreak of COVID-19 in the community. “What we’re really hoping is that we won’t have to use them,” he said. “But if that’s the case then we’re going to be prepared and I think that’s part of the deal to keep us open.”

TCOA collaborated with Visit Big Sky and the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce to deliver “COVID bundles” to community businesses on May 29, jump starting their efforts. Built on a foundation of collaboration, the STAY Big Sky campaign is a joint effort between TCOA, Lone Mountain Land Company, VBS and the chamber along with other local partners. 

Morrison applauded the various local initiatives to help relieve the COVID-19 stresses that blitzed the community. TCOA recognized a need for a uniform effort to be developed that would continue assisting businesses as the state moves into Phase 2 of the reopening. “We’re just trying to focus the efforts initially in Town Center and then work with our partners to hopefully get it out to the entire community and beyond,” he said. 

TCOA plans to continue supplying area businesses with necessary personal protective equipment and other health and safety related materials throughout the summer and will explore all funding methods to do so. “We don’t want the cost to be a factor in not being able to adopt this and keep this campaign going and keep us open,” Morrison said.

“It’s about all of us. It’s not just Town Center,” Morrison said. “It’s really about all of us in Big Sky from Big Sky locals to second homeowners to destination travelers. Every single one of those segments has a stake in this game.”

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