Ski charity named after renowned Rutland attorney
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | March 22,2013
Albert J. Marro / Rutland Herald ¬ Defense Atty. Matthew Harnett listens to questioning by the prosecution during the trial of John Walters currently being conducted in Rutland District Court. 08/26/10
Matthew Harnett may have been best known for his work as a prominent defense attorney. But for many of the 160 kids and teenagers racing at Killington Ski Area this weekend, he was better known as the ski coach with candy.
“He always had candy and the kids loved him,” said Killington Ski Club program director Chuck Hughes. “Matt was a great guy and he really cared about the kids.”
Harnett, who died in November from complications brought on by his treatment for lymphoma, made his career in courtrooms where he was recognized as one of the most successful defense attorneys in the state.
But friends who knew him said he was most at ease on the mountain, where he served for about 15 years as a ski coach introducing children ages 6-8 to the great outdoors.
“He had a loyal following,” said longtime friend Sandra Deitch. “The kids flocked to his humor and his sense of fun, and he gave out candy.”
This weekend many of the kids Harnett worked with will race in an event to raise money for charity founded in his name.
The first annual Matt Harnett Memorial Race will kick off Sunday on the slopes of the Highline Trail at Killington.
The race is a member-only event for kids ages 7 to 14 affiliated with the Vermont Alpine Racing Association and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. But all are welcome to watch the race and participate in a raffle comprising $4,000 worth of prizes, event organizers said.
A portion of the proceeds will go to the Matt Harnett Memorial Foundation, which has been established to support and assist young athletes in financial need.
Hughes said the foundation would help pay for everything from lift tickets to equipment for kids enrolled at the Killington Ski Club and Killington Mountain School competitive ski programs.
Meredith “Merf” Allen, a longtime friend of Harnett’s who sits on the foundation’s board of directors, said the charitable effort was a way for his friends to remember and honor his memory and his contributions to young lives.
“We want to offer kids with financial needs the chance to have the same passion for the outdoors that Matt had,” she said.
The event Sunday will also feature a ceremony featuring the hanging of a permanent plaque at the ski club to honor Harnett’s memory.