Fundraising dinner to support local man’s efforts to help Ukraine

A community fundraiser from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 1 at the Johnny B. Good Restaurant in downtown Steamboat Springs will help fund trauma first aid kits, as well as field defibrillators for military personnel and refugees in need in Ukraine.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo

Routt County residents continue to volunteer and donate to support those in need in Ukraine, and a fundraiser is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 1 at Johnny B. Good’s Diner at downtown Steamboat Springs.

Diner co-owner Kathy Diemer said proceeds from the day’s sales will be donated to support Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach in his fundraising efforts to purchase two items in high demand in Ukraine – field defibrillators and trauma first aid kits.

Kovach is back home after spending weeks volunteering and helping fund requests for emergency supplies and equipment in towns along the Polish-Ukrainian border. He plans to return overseas with supplies in early May and make a longer trip in June.



“(Kovach) is an amazing man who I’m so proud to call my neighbor Steamboat,” Diemer said. “His passion for helping the people of Ukraine is contagious, and Johnny B’s has definitely caught the bug.”

The Sunday fundraiser is coordinated by restaurant co-owner Mike Diemer, and some restaurant employees voluntarily donate their labor that day.



“As Mark told Mike the stories of the children in Ukraine he was able to help with donations from Steamboat and elsewhere, the hook was set,” Kathy Diemer said.

In addition to donating proceeds from Sunday eat-in and take-out sales, the restaurant offers an online donation option at Johnnybgoodsdiner.com by scrolling down the “Online Order” tab to the “Donations” link. The owners said 100% of online donations will go to the relief effort.

“It’s Mike and Kathy’s moral fiber to get involved in the community,” Kovach said. “Mike and I have something in common in that we’re both at a point in life where we have the ability to make a real impact.”

Kovach said his efforts in Ukraine include distributing comfort kits with snacks, small toys and notes from Steamboat School students, as well as donating funds to buy a Jeep and a medical trailer that are used in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. He also helped meet needs as they grew in border towns, from buying rain ponchos to juicers.

He is an official volunteer of the non-profit association World Central Kitchen and Nashville-based Air Recovery Group and works in a network with small groups of volunteers. He said Boulder resident and friend Jackie Cuyler also helped him in Poland by delivering an initial order of trauma first aid kits.

In border towns, Kovach has done everything from running 12-hour volunteer shifts to coordinating transportation efforts, sponsoring a refugee family, and supporting a group’s efforts to help Ukrainian orphans.

“I have to be able to be extremely agile,” said Kovach, an entrepreneur and U.S. Navy veteran.

Kovach said government agencies and large non-profit entities play an important role in Ukraine, but small groups of volunteers are able to respond more quickly to emergency supply needs, such as a day when it filled out a shopping list for diapers, baby formula and ARG medication to drive to Ukraine to help orphans.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” Kovach said. “I focus on people, not war.”

Kovach said interested people have supported the local effort with nearly $100,000 in donations so far, about half of which have come from Routt County residents.

“People like to see their donated dollars having a direct impact and not being stuck in a bureaucratic process, Kovach said. “We distribute funds and supplies directly to refugees and through individual volunteers and small organizations that have just formed in Poland and Ukraine.

Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach, left, and Boulder resident Jackie Cuyler take a break while volunteering in a Polish-Ukrainian border town earlier this month.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo

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