Influential Tahoe Women: Sherry McConkey
Sherry McConkey is a local luminary of nearly 27 years, who is well known for her work with The Shane McConkey Foundation.
The foundation supports other community resources with donations, an effort she launched after losing her husband, extreme athlete, Shane McConkey, in 2009.
“The mission of the foundation is to carry on Shane’s legacy through random acts of kindness and charitable giving, and to inspire others to make a difference in the world at large,” McConkey said.
McConkey said that through tragedy she was able to discover a new version of herself.
“Every day I wake up and make a conscious decision to try my hardest in everything that I love and have passion for, because there is something that happens to your soul when you uncover it. Shane showed me that if you have the courage to be authentic, work hard and pour yourself into things that make you happy, anything is possible,” she said.
The nonprofit has donated more than $288,000 to local entities, including the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe, and many more.
“All of the foundations we give to like High Fives, Sierra Avalanche, Protect Our Winters, are people we respect and look up to. It’s an honor to be able to give a tiny bit of money to share the love of what they do,” McConkey said.
Another of McConkey’s foundations is The Shane McConkey EcoChallenge, where children across the country identify an environmental problem in their school or community and implement a solution.
“I fear for Earth and also for my daughter’s future, but if we start with a younger generation, my hope is that it will start resonating. I believe in our children. If we can mold their lives with positivity and intentional care for the earth, it will start to disrupt a cycle,” McConkey said.
This year’s winning students were Alex Weber and Jack Johnston from Monterey Bay, who identified that decaying golf balls were polluting the ocean below Pebble Beach Golf Course.
The boys removed over 12,000 golf balls, helped incorporate a beach and underwater cleanup program moving forward, and are studying their scientific findings.
“The point of the EcoChallenge is to get kids thinking about the environment and acting to help protect it. Over the years it’s just the best feeling in the world, the kids get so proud and you can just tell they’re learning,” McConkey said.
“Everywhere I go I see these little munchkins — one little girl was so painfully shy she didn’t want to speak on the video we shoot and she started crying. I said, ‘Honey, you’ve already done more than you needed to by doing good things for the earth,’ and it was so important to her that she composed herself and did want to talk on camera about what she believed in.”
Her work helping fellow community members and educating children is in full swing with no end in sight.
“The earth has given me so much. If I can give even a little bit of that back, I want to,” she said.
Question & Answer:
What are you most proud of from your work over the years?
McConkey: “Shane would be proud because the foundation is not only about him but about others, too. He cared about so much more than just himself, so that makes me proud. And it makes me proud that we have this generous community that is so supportive, without them none of this would be possible.”
What is one of your biggest learning moments?
McConkey: “I think I didn’t do enough before. It took Shane dying to make me have to do more. Shane was incredible and had such a legacy. My failure was being a very selfish individual before and realizing I had to look inside and get my own potential out. The power of giving is way stronger than the power of grief. You can sit and wallow in a puddle and it’s not going to do anything; the cloud gets so much darker. But when you go up to the next level and experience the power of good, life is so freaking beautiful there is no way you can stay sad. You can be sad, but you have to live.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
McConkey: “I’ve learned that there are a lot of times when you might not necessarily agree with someone or their thought process, but it’s so important to look for the good in everyone, understand their analogy and where they’re coming from. Take a step back. The minute you see the good in a person you really like them; we all have issues that are not necessarily our fault. Holding off on judgment in the heat of the moment is key. You have a voice, but you should use it in a compassionate way.”
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.