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Aspen Celebrity Downhill: Good time for a good cause

Joel Stonington
Comedian and actor David Alan Grier slides into the finish corral during Saturday's Aspen Celebrity Downhill, which benefits the Aspen Youth Experience. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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The snow was fast on the Little Nell Saturday, the viewing area was all smiles, and the sun was shining brightly as racer after racer slid into the finish corral at the Aspen Celebrity Downhill.It was good times for a good cause, as the race benefitted the Aspen Youth Experience. The annual event is the nonprofit oragnization’s biggest fundraiser; this year, organizers are hoping to net $400,000.”It’s such a good cause,” said actor Ed Quinn, “and it’s so much fun. Three years ago David Alan Grier said, ‘Hey, you want to go snowboarding?’ Then we met the kids.”They are all so articulate and grounded spiritually. These kids grow up to be leaders.”Quinn is about to begin filming “Eureka,” a show that will air on the Sci-Fi Channel starting in July. But he always makes time for the Aspen Celebrity Downhill. So do many of the other celebrities on hand for the event. Comedian and actor Grier, for example, was in Vancouver, B.C., filming a new Wayon brothers movie. He asked them to stop a day early so he could make it to Aspen this weekend. Aspen Youth Experience holds a winter and summer program for at-risk kids; they also sponsor a Latino Youth Camp. Participants join in outdoor activities; the goal is to push these kids beyond their normal boundaries through skiing, boarding or rappelling down a rock face. Each night, the youths talk about what they’ve experienced.

Every year, the Aspen Youth Experience honors a kid who has completed the program and gone on to become a leader. “Back in New Orleans,” said this year’s honoree, Dreama Goldsmith, “I started doing a lot of mentoring, especially with teenagers.” Goldsmith, who has attended the 10-day peer counseling program twice a year for the past seven years, is now pursuing a pharmacy degree at Xavier University. Her schooling is funded in part by the Aspen Youth Experience. The organization has awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships since 1998.According to Aspen Youth Experience spokeswoman Anna Lexeus Smith, 25 kids are in town for the weekend; 16 skied in the downhill race.”Some of the youths that have stepped up, whom we really want to reward, get to come out,” said Smith. Anthony Macias, 15, is one of those kids. He’s only been on a snowboard 10 times, but he cruised down the course with just one crash on Saturday.”I got 41 seconds with a fall,” he said, still holding out hope for a gold medal on his second run. “I’m going to win next time.”Ayesha Bogart, who has been a program participant for 12 years, is now a staff seargant in the Army based in Colorado Springs. The single mother of an 8-year-old, Bogart is pursuing a degree in communications and looking forward to the future.”I want to work for nonprofit organizations,” she said. “I’d like to give back to this organization, maybe work on media relations.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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