One Way Caleb Feels Free

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Caleb attended Winter Games in the spring of 2015. A 15-year-old from Aurora, Colorado, Caleb suffers from an optic glioma, a tumor of the nerve to the eye. This form of tumor often occurs as one of the central nervous system manifestations of Neurofibromatosis 1, which Caleb is also challenged with. He is essentially blind in his right eye, and is rapidly losing vision in his left eye each day.

Facing these debilitating illnesses as an adolescent, a time when even healthy teens struggle with drastic emotional and physical changes, is no easy feat. Caleb suffers from decreased motor control, compromised balance, hearing, a lack of energy and some learning delays.

In the face of all of these challenges, Caleb chooses to laugh. This amazing young man brings bright light and energy to every room he enters, armed with a half dozen jokes at any given moment. Caleb also enjoys writing- he has even published his own book about sharks! At Winter Games in 2015, he composed the following poem, and share it with all of us on Banquet Night.

The Skiing Poem by Caleb S.

Going to the top of the mountain so I can ski-
one way I can really be me.
Going down the hill-
that makes me feel free.

The energy, the rush
these things, you can't have too much.

The helmet, goggles, and coat-
a sit-ski is like a mountain boat!

This week is full of excitement and fun
having a blast under the sun.

Do I regret going down the hill, then back up the slope?
All I have to say is, "NOPE!"
 

Offering children like Caleb a chance to feel like themselves again, to feel free, is one of the many reasons that Shining Stars exists.

We recognize the tremendous struggle that these children have been forced into, and seek to acknowledge the sheer energy that it takes to wake up each day and fight their battle. In return, we seek to give these children HOPE- to show them all they are capable of doing and reflect the inner strength we see shining so bright beneath the surface. 

Will you help us show children like Caleb what it feels like to be free? Will you help us remind these kids what living truly feels like? Sponsor a Shining Star today. Click here. 

 

Meet Ta'Quaja

Ta’Quaja was diagnosed with a brain tumor in December 2014. She underwent an aggressive treatment plan that included brain surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The grueling treatment left Ta’Quaja feeling isolated from her peers, so she was nervous to attend the 2016 Aspen Winter Games with nearly 70 other kids. 

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Those nerves didn’t last long, though! From ski-biking Buttermilk Mountain, to strutting her stuff at the talent show, to giving all her new friends hilarious nicknames - we loved watching Ta’Quaja’s confidence blossom during the week! 

Hospital stays, radiation, chemotherapy...my life revolved around treatments. Shining Stars gave me the opportunity to ride in an airplane for the first time, meet incredible people who motivate me to do more, and visit a state I’ve never been to. And I got to ski, which I’ve never done and made me feel like a champ no matter if I went fast or not.
-Ta’Quaja

Your support will enable us to serve brave kids just like Ta'Quaja. Click here to learn how you can change a life today! 

#GivingTuesday

Help us kick off the charitable giving season with #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving! You can give the gift of hope this holiday season to children and families facing pediatric cancer.

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Joshua's List

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In the days following Shining Star Joshua's Bone Marrow Transplant in June of 2012, he assembled the following list of things he wanted to do once he was healthy again. See below to get an idea of what this list looked like:

1.    Ride my bike in the rain through muddy puddles
2.    Dive off of the diving board and swim under water all the way to the end
3.    Go to the deep end of the pool, jump in and touch the bottom
4.    Play football with my older brothers without getting sick
5.    Go skydiving
6.    Climb a mountain without getting sick or tired
7.    Play in snow for the first time
8.    Ride a Hot Air Balloon
...the list went up to 50 items!

Joshua's mother explained to us the significance of this list. 

"When he was told that he could go [to the Aspen Winter Games] by the Phoenix Children's Hospital staff, he went home and grabbed his list..... his “BUCKET LIST” and said “look mamma, I get to scratch two things off my list”.

Tears filled my eyes and for the first time in Joshua's life, I saw him experience REAL HOPE by believing that he was finally going to get the chance to be a “NORMAL BOY.” Thank you for giving my child Joshua Hope. And, I pray that many more children get to experience the life changing event as Joshua did."

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Thank you for helping us bring HOPE to the lives of children across the country! Will you give this year to bring hope to more brave kids that need it? 

Visit the Shining Stars donation page and give what you can today!

 

Meet Kaity

We are just about a week out from Thanksgiving, and by now, many of you have likely received our fall fundrasing appeal in your mailboxes. This year, we told the story of one of our treasured Shining Stars families- The Scarlett's! Read Kaity's story here...

The story above is just a glimpse into the life of a child battling cancer. A life of growing up too fast, dreading the next needle poke, and feeling isolated and alone. 

This is where you can step in. 

With the help of supporters like you, Shining Stars brought Kaity to the Aspen Winter Games program. She spent an entire week skiing and forming unique friendships with other children who knew what she was going through. She forgot all about her cancer, and the painful treatments that she endured before leaving home. 

She found acceptance among a group of peers who had also experienced the trauma of battling cancer. She was reminded that her cancer will not define her life. She discovered the joy of simply being a kid. Now Kaity tells us, " I will never give up hope!"

After the Aspen Winter Games, Kaity and her family were invited to over 60 other programs and events. She is now in remission, but often attends programs with her family to help mentor and support newly diagnosed kids and families. This would not be possible without supporters like you!

You can make your tax-deductible donation by going online to www.ShiningStarsFoundation.org/donate or calling us at 970-726-8009. Thank you for giving the gift of HOPE! 

Meet Kat

“Two... A little number, a little age. That’s how old I was when I was diagnosed with cancer. Before this, I was just a normal baby. My parents had no idea they would have to pay millions of dollars in medical and insurance bills just to keep me alive.”

Meet Kat. Diagnosed with a malignant tumor of her eye socket, Kat underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy  as a toddler. The treatment left her with a number of lasting effects – both physical and emotional. 

“When they removed the tumor, they messed up the look of my eye as well. The times I hate most is walking through public with people just staring at me. “

Kat was invited to attend the Aspen Winter Games. There, she found a network of friends who knew what it was like to have cancer.  To endure hospital stays, needle pokes, and surgeries. To be labeled as ‘different’.  Kat and her family now attend many of our 60 year-round programs and events. 

“At Shining Stars, everyone is so inviting and accepting. They’ve had cancer. They know what it’s like. For the first time, I felt acceptance among my peers.”

Help us bring hope to brave families like Kat’s this holiday season! Make your donation go even further with Colorado Gives Day. This annual statewide movement celebrates and increases philanthropy in Colorado through online giving, and its $1 Million Incentive Fund increases the value of every donation proportionally. Colorado Gives Day is December 6th, but you can donate early! Click the button below to learn more and bring hope to children and families facing cancer or another life threatening illness. 

Our New Look!

How do you like us, now?! 

This past Spring, Shining Stars was treated to an extreme make-over! We have wanted to change up our look for years now, but just didn't have to resources to get the job done in a way that we really liked.

A friend to the Foundation, Ms. Reilly Gallagher, approached us last Spring about participating in the Denver University Professional MBA program Capstone Project. Reilly and her team worked with SSF over the course of 8 weeks to develop a "Blueprint for Growth," that outlined some best practices as we grow as a Foundation and serve more and more kids and families each year!

Team SSF + Shining Stars Staff and Board Members on the day of the Capstone Presentation! Thanks to our team- Reilly, Jason, Taylor, Shelby, Emily, Kwami and Jodye- for the hours of hard work they put into getting to know us and help us develop a plan for future growth. 

Team SSF + Shining Stars Staff and Board Members on the day of the Capstone Presentation! Thanks to our team- Reilly, Jason, Taylor, Shelby, Emily, Kwami and Jodye- for the hours of hard work they put into getting to know us and help us develop a plan for future growth. 

One aspect of their project was a "Brand Refresh." We wanted to retain some aspects of our current design- the iconic 3-star logo, our signature bright colors and a youthful and joyful overall tone. We think they nailed what Shining Stars is all about, don't you!? 

Winter Park Half Marathon and 5k

We were honored to host over 200 runners and volunteers at the 2016 Winter Park Half Marathon and 5k this past weekend! The course spanned from Winter Park to Fraser and back again. It was a perfectly cloudless morning in the mountains, and the aspen trees had just started to shed the greens of summer for the bright yellow, orange and red of fall. 

After changing the date of the race from late June to mid-September this year due to scheduling conflicts, we must admit that we were a little wary of the unpredictable weather this time of year. After all- it has already snowed and hailed in our neck of the mountains! Luckily, Mother Nature looked kindly on us and delivered us a perfect Fall day for running! 

Here are couple of highlights:

- Our first place finisher, Joshua Merrick, is a newbie to the Fraser River Valley. He blew the competition away with a time of 1:23:28. That is a 6:20 minute mile- for 13.1 miles! WOW- way to go, Josh!

- Runner Jack Sepple, who finished with an impressive time of 2:09:24, vowed, along with a friend, to run the Winter Park Half Marathon every year for the next 25 years! We'll see you guys next summer, Jack! 

- Meagan Zastrow, first time half-marathoner, had never run more than 6 miles consecutively in her life prior to Saturday's race! She came all the way over from Steamboat Springs to race this weekend, and finished with an amazing time of 2 :14:48! You're amazing, Meg!

- Runner Claudia Kirby finished the race with a time of 2:08:28. Claudia lives in Aspen and came all the way over to Grand County just to support Shining Stars and run in this beautiful fall race. Claudia and her entire family have been volunteering with and supporting the Shining Stars Aspen Winter Games program for years, and we're thrilled she was able to make it out and have such a successful run. Way to go, Claudia!!

Overall, we had an amazing day and we're so grateful to all volunteers, sponsors and especially our runners who came out to make this all possible. We can't wait until the 2017 race!

Click here to view all race results.
Click here to view photos from the race.