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.

 

1,168 Days of Chemo

20 spinal taps. 3 bone marrow aspirations. 6 blood transfusions. 74 visits to the hospital. 4 birthday parties on the cancer floor. This is a snapshot of what 10-year-old Addison endured in his treatment for Leukemia. Children like Addison need your help today!

In April of 2010, Addison’s parents became concerned when their lively 5-year-old was too tired to hunt for Easter eggs.  Bruises and fevers soon followed. They took him to the emergency room, thinking it was an infection. Instead, they got the shocking news that 98 percent of Addison’s marrow was cancerous. As you can imagine, the news was unbearable. 

My heart was crushed in a way I can’t explain,” Addison’s mom, Sarah, told us. They rushed him to Children’s Hospital Colorado.  “The reality didn’t hit until they took Addison to his room. The elevator doors opened and the floor read ‘ONCOLOGY’. My sweet five-year-old child had cancer. Addison touched my face with his pale hands and said, ‘Don’t be scared, Mommy.’”

Their lives suddenly revolved around treatment schedules, long hospital stays, and daunting medical bills. Addison’s parents, Sarah and Kip, knew cancer would be physically traumatic for their son. But what truly overwhelmed them was the emotional and psychological toll the illness took on Addison, his sister Madelene, and themselves. 

Medical professionals at Children’s Hospital Colorado immediately referred them
 to the Shining Stars Foundation.

Addison’s family was surprised to learn that Shining Stars is not just a one-time camp, but a full year of 50 different recreational, outdoor, and social events. They would not have to pay for these services and could participate for as long as needed. Even better, the whole family could participate. 

Ask Sarah to explain Shining Stars in one word? “THERAPY. We feel safe here and we feel secure. Nobody is looking at you like, why is your kid sick? Shining Stars is one of those priceless things. It is everything we need.”

This year, we hope to raise enough money to support 60 brand new children, and their entire families, for the duration of their cancer battle.

You can make this a reality. 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE OR SPONSOR A CHILD TODAY. 

Reminding Galy What It Feels Like to Live

CLICK HERE TO DONATE OR SPONSOR A CHILD TODAY. 

We were so lucky to meet 14-year-old Galy at the 2015 Aspen Winter Games this year. Galy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, grade II astrocytoma-thalmus when she was 13. We spoke with her nurse, Kathy, about the impact that the Aspen Winter Games had on Galy. Read the incredible story below: 


"In August, 2014,  Galy noticed that she was having trouble writing with her pencil at school. She told her mom and, after several trips to the doctor, finally had an MRI scan. It showed a brain tumor. She and her family were devastated. She had surgery and radiation, but was left with some debilitating seizures during her recovery. She told me that she would cry all the time and ask her mom, “Why me?

"Galy and I talked a lot about running; she told me that prior to her illness, she liked to run and had completed several half marathons. I like to run too, so we chatted a lot about how it feels so exhilarating to complete a race and how running “clears the brain.” When we were at the airport on our return home, Galy told me that she really misses running, but that when she was skiing, she got the same feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. It had been so long since she felt that way; she was so grateful to feel that again."


"Galy had a clinic visit the Monday after we returned from Aspen. Her mom looked at me and said (through a Spanish interpreter), “What have you done to my daughter? She isn’t the same person!” She shared how Galy bounces around the house, smiling and singing. Needless to say, Galy’s mom was thrilled with the change in her daughter. Thank you Shining Stars for reminding Galy what it feels like to live again."

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It is because of donors and supporters like you that we are able to provide these life-changing programs for Galy and children like her. You can give them hope. 

Click here to donate or sponsor a child today. 

We're Thankful For... kids who help other kids!

We're changing things up a bit this week for our Friday Thanksgiving Feature and expressing our gratitude for the amazing student volunteer community that we at Shining Stars Foundation like to call, "Kids Helping Kids." 

Students from schools in Pitkin County, Grand County, and a number of schools in the Denver Metro area have participated in the program over the last year. Kids offer volunteer support for programs or organize fundraisers to raise money for Shining Stars events and programs.

Just this past week in Aspen, Colorado, our friends at Aspen Middle School put on a two-night Poetry Soiree extravaganza! Students spent countless hours writing or memorizing poems from their favorite authors. All of this hard work culminated at the Soiree, held at Aspen's Limelight Hotel, where students recited their poems in front of family and friends.

Attendees were encouraged to donate to Shining Stars, with the hopes of raising enough funds to sponsor a Shining Star at the 2016 Aspen Winter Games. It was inspiring to see all of the hard work these students had put in on their own time to support other children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses! A big thank you to teachers Hallie Harrison and Bill Boyd for inspiring their students to take this on. 

Shining Stars Director of Outreach Cookie Ready visits many of these schools annually to present on the importance of volunteering. Cookie also stresses the importance of acceptance and compassion when a friend or peer is challenged with cancer or another life-threatening illness. When asked why she felt the Kids Helping Kids program was so important, Cookie's answer was two-fold.

"First, for the students, it helps to instill an appreciation of diversity and a love of volunteering at an early age. They learn how good it feels to give back, and how some kids don't have it as easy as others," Cookie explained.

"Second, when students volunteer with the kids that we serve, they develop lasting friendships. The Shining Stars are treated like normal kids or teenagers, a luxury that is not always afforded to them by their peers at home."

We are so incredibly grateful to have such a caring and compassionate student community in the areas we work. These kids give so selflessly of themselves with hopes of making the lives of our Shining Stars kids just that much better.

Thanks to our student volunteers, no one of our Shining Stars has to fight cancer alone, without the support of their peers. 

Click here to do your part in making sure that no child or family challeged with cancer or life-threatening illness has to fight their battle alone. 

 

"He Returned From Aspen an Entirely Different Child..."

"...one that is relaxed, happy, less anxious, more confident, and so excited to have made new friends who understand what he is going through."- Lauren, Mother of Jacob. 

Meet Jacob. A 12-year-old boy from Castle Rock, Colorado who was diagnosed with a brain tumor, astrocytoma in 2011 when he was only 8 years old. 

We feel so lucky to have spent a week in March getting to know Jacob at the 2015 Aspen Winter Games, and again this Summer at the 2015 Aspen Summer Adventure. We spoke to Jacob's mother Lauren to learn more about Jacob's story and to see what kind of impact these Shining Stars programs had on her family.

"Jacob became very ill in December 2011. He had a large fluid-filled cyst in his skull caused by a benign brain tumor (astrocytoma). Jacob endured 6 surgeries to drain the cyst and re-sect the tumor and a 7th surgery to place a shunt. He then had 4 additional surgeries to repair an incision that was not healing properly. Added into the mix was a dental surgery, for a grand total of 12 surgeries in 2012." 

Think about watching your child endure one surgical procedure per month, for an entire year. 
Try to imagine the emotional and financial stress that would put on any family. 

In addition to cancer, Jacob is also faced with Noonan's Syndrome, which complicates his medical treatment protocol even further. Lauren explains how these medical issues have affected not only Jacob, but their entire family. 

"Having a child with a serious illness sends you down a path that can only be navigated on a day-to-day basis. You can’t plan for anything more than a week out, and even then, it’s questionable. Living with a serious illness takes a toll on every relationship, especially within the immediate family."

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We asked Lauren how Shining Stars Foundation has helped her family cope with these challenges. 

"Jacob attended the Aspen Winter Games in March; he also attended the summer program in Aspen this past July. These programs were a turning point for him in regard to managing and overcoming some long-held fears and anxiety. Shining Stars has provided support and events for us that we could not have afforded on our own, or through another program. It has given Jacob incredible opportunities to be challenged, building his confidence, while surrounding him with other kids that he can relate to. This past year has been so incredibly hard for him and for our entire family, so it was a blessing for all of us to have a break from our routine of treatment and care-giving and just have fun!"

Thanks to donors and supporters like you, we make sure that Jacob does not fight his illnesses alone. Shining Stars events and programs will be offered to Jacob and his family from now until they no longer need us. It is your support that makes this possible!

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Visit www.ShiningStarsFoundation.org and give what you can to make sure no child or family has to fight alone. Thanks, and have a great weekend!

 

 

Meet Alexander and Family

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Just a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday in 2012, Alexander came to his Mom, Denise, and showed her a large lump that was forming beneath his arm. Unable to imagine the worst, Denise and her husband Paul  decided to get it checked out by their family doctor. Denise recalls, “We just wanted to rule out anything serious. We knew that it wouldn't actually be cancer. Except that it was.”

Alexander was only 11 years old when he was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.  For Alex, this meant checking in at Children’s Hospital and immediately beginning chemotherapy. For Denise and Paul, it was a parent’s worst nightmare.

 “We had to figure out how to manage his care, administer his many medications and monitor him for signs that he might have fever and neutropenia - what was that again?  What do you mean I have to put on gloves to handle medicine that I am going to give to my child to ingest? There were lots of tears, his and mine.”

The next few months, their family was in and out of the hospital. Alexander had to drop out of the activities that most 11 year olds take for granted- sports, clubs and play dates with friends became impossible, as his chest port made him fragile and treatments exhausted him.

In March of 2013, only four months after Alexander’s cancer diagnosis, he attended the Aspen Winter Games with Shining Stars Foundation.

Denise explains the impact the week had on her son, “At first he was a bit scared. This time, overcoming his fear led to great fun, rather than tolerating another painful procedure.  It gave him the chance to get away from everything and do something that made him feel powerful and exhilarated.  The one-on-one ski instruction let him learn at his own pace.   He met other kids going through the same things.”

After Alexander returned from Winter Games, their entire family was invited to all subsequent Shining Stars events and activities. Like so many of our families, Denise explains the value of these programs. “This was wonderful because I didn't have to plan anything and we didn't have to find extra money to pay for it. We were up to our necks in medical bills - even with insurance.”

Alexander’s family has continued to attend Shining Stars events, including the Grand County Family Adventure, where they were able to connect with other families who understood what they had been through. “It was helpful to know other families who were going through the same things.  To know people at every stage of the cancer journey made us thankful for our blessings and helped us to understand what was coming next. It gave us hope to meet families who have survived treatment and were on the other side,” said Denise.

Thankfully, Alexander is now 20 months off treatment, but they are still grateful for the support network and time out that Shining Stars provides. “Everything is seemingly back to normal, but it feels so different.  You feel forever changed by the experience and you are a different person than you were when you embarked on the journey.  This can feel lonely and it is helpful to be able to talk to others who have also been through it.”

Unfortunately, Alexander’s story is not unique. For many of the families we serve, the trauma of the cancer experience remains with them long after treatment is complete. Shining Stars Foundation is there for these families from the very beginning until they no longer need us. We provide HOPE and HEALING. We make sure that no child or family has to face and fight their illness alone. YOU make it possible.

Click here to Donate today!

Give what you can to help us make sure no one fights alone.