Sunshine Kids come for the fun
Forty young cancer patients from hospitals across the countryare coming to Aspen Saturday with just one goal in mind: havingfun.That’s the purpose of the 17th annual National Sunshine Kids WinterGames.The youngsters, ages 9 to 18, will ski, snowmobile, shop, danceand generally be treated to a wonderful time for a week, at theexpense of The Sunshine Kids organization.”The kids stay in hotels and eat out at restaurants, so they’reamong all the tourists – they’re here strictly to have fun,” saidDon Hecker, a volunteer and member of The Sunshine Kids advisoryboard. “We not only bring in the forty kids, but we bring in theirnurses and doctors. And each child has their own ski instructor,who come from all over the West and volunteer to work one-on-onewith the children for the whole week. These are special kids andwe do nothing but have fun with them.”The kids will fly into Denver Saturday morning from cancer hospitalsin Georgia, Utah, Washington, D.C., Florida, Indiana and elsewhere.Then they’ll board a bus bound for the Inn at Aspen, where theywill stay for the week. On Sunday, the kids and their ski instructors will hit the slopesof Buttermilk Mountain and ski throughout the week, culminatingwith next Friday’s Sunshine Kids Winter Games Downhill Race. Thepublic is encouraged to come and cheer the kids on during theraces, which begin at 10 a.m., and at the awards ceremony whichwill follow.”It’s a week in paradise, and it’s unfortunate that it’s onlya week,” Hecker noted. “This is a lasting thing for the kids.”The Sunshine Kids, a national nonprofit organization based inHouston, Texas, was founded in 1982 and has traditionally helda winter event for the children here in Aspen. However, over theyears the program has expanded and winter events are now heldat resorts around the country.”In a day, we have these kids laughing and dancing,” Hecker said,”but when they get off the bus, they’re not even talking. Thelocal volunteers here really open their hearts to all these kids,and make them feel welcome.”Of the six years that Hecker has volunteered with The SunshineKids, he says, “it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.”To raise money for more children to come to Aspen with The SunshineKids in the future, a local chapter of the organization is hostingtwo fund-raising events scheduled for this summer.Singer/songwriter Burt Bachrach will highlight a gala eveningat the St. Regis Hotel on July 15. And actor Kevin Costner willbe interviewed by Richard Brown, of American Movie Classics, atthe Aspen High School, on Aug. 3. Proceeds from both events willgo toward The Sunshine Kids organization.”What we’re trying to do, why we started this chapter here, isso we could raise more money to bring more kids to Aspen, maybetwice a year,” Hecker said.For information and/or tickets to the local events, call ReneeDeutsch at 923-1234.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.