From John Oates to Chad Lowe, celebs bomb down Ajax to help Aspen Youth Expererience |

From John Oates to Chad Lowe, celebs bomb down Ajax to help Aspen Youth Expererience

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The road out of grating poverty and hard circumstance in urban America has led to Aspen for the last 16 years, thanks to the Aspen Youth Experience.And on a snowy Saturday morning, dozens of celebrities, locals and hotshot racers hit a dual GS course on the Little Nell for the 11th annual Celebrity Downhill – all to raise money for the non-profit.”It’s a great event that raises a lot of money to educate children,” said Fisher Stevens, an actor and producer in his third visit to Aspen for the event.Twice a year some 60 kids from cities around the nation visit Aspen for 10-day programs and learn self-esteem, self-confidence, respect and to foster trust, said David Wiedinmyer, director of the Aspen Youth Experience. Organizers also hold regular youth camps for Roaring Fork Valley kids.”It’s not a vacation,” Wiedinmyer said.

The Aspen Youth Experience replaces the challenges of poverty and abuse at home with the challenge of extreme sports like skiing and rock climbing in the mountains around Aspen. And kids work with mentors and counselors to find a window where they see their lives are not limited, Wiedinmyer said.Jason Cruz was 15 when he first came to Aspen as a participant in the program. Now he is a facilitator at group events. He said the Aspen Youth Experience has not only changed his perspective on life, but it has offered him a chance to heal the relationship with his father, and has given him a new life and a career in marketing.Like Cruz, Xavier Reyes of Manhattan calls Aspen his second home after his many visits and outdoor adventures in the valley.Reyes was able to go to college with the help of a grant through Aspen Youth Experience. He’ll graduate this year with a degree in public affairs and recently took a job at Reuters.”The program enabled me to make positive choices in my life,” Reyes said. “I just want to give back for the gift I was given.”And it was taking part in extreme sports that helped Reyes conquer the extreme circumstances of life in a foster home.

“I’ve been where you are and if I can do it, so can you,” Reyes tells newcomers to the program.Nancy Paley, an organizer for the event, wrapped her arm around 13-year-old Katrina Ceballos, who introduced herself confidently, something Paley said Katrina could not have done last year before she joined one of the programs for youth in the valley.”It just takes one adult to believe in these kids,” Paley said, and it makes a difference in their lives.”A lot of these kids have the same kind of background I had,” said Judge Joe Brown, who overcame poverty in South Central L.A. to get an education at UCLA. Brown hosts a reality court TV program.Heartthrob Chad Lowe was happy he beat John Oates, a local celeb who owns a home in Woody Creek, down the course. Even so, he said the pop musician smoked him on the second run.

“As long as I beat anybody else who’s an actor,” Lowe said, he’s happy.”I get to see people I would normally see on the red carpet slipping out of control on the ski slope,” said Bill McCuddy, a Fox News commentator who said the event gives him a bit of leverage over his colleagues.McCuddy went on to emcee the gala event Saturday night at the St. Regis Aspen hotel.Other celebrities included David Alan Grier, Billy Kidd, Allan Harris, Sal Masekela and Rob Morrow.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is


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