Shining Stars Updates

Brandon Beats the Odds (Continued…)

Prior to attending the 2011 Aspen Winter Games, Brandon was worried that his vision loss and medical problems would be an issue for him at the event. He knew he wanted to ski or snowboard, but how could he do either of these highly physical activities with a brain tumor and an eye patch?! Well, Brandon soon learned just how capable he was, despite these challenges.

“I didn't know how to ski or snowboard and was worried that my vision problems would make learning either of the two a huge challenge. But, the Shining Stars found me a great teacher, and within a week, I was flying down a mountain on my own feeling like a king,” Brandon recalls.

After the Winter Games, Brandon and his family were invited to the annual Grand County Family Adventure, as well as the nearly 60 programs each year that Shining Stars offers to kids and families.

“On these trips, we all got to meet other survivors and families of survivors and make lifelong friends, exchanging stories, laughs, and great times. My family loves any trip with the SSF, and always talk about the friends and opportunities we've had thanks to this foundation.”

Today, Brandon is 21 years old. While he has conquered so many of his serious health challenges, the road forward is not easy for pediatric cancer survivors. When the kids we serve are young, there are a number of resources provided to them and to their families through their children’s hospitals, or through programs like Shining Stars. As soon as these kids “age out” of that system, however, they often times feel quite lost. From the lasting physical and mental health impacts of chemotherapy, to the social issues that linger after facing trauma, there is a clear need for some type of support programs for these young adult survivors.

At Shining Stars, we knew we had a chance to fill this gap. So, in 2016, we began offering groundbreaking Young Adult and Mentorship programs for Shining Stars over the age of 18. Brandon was one of our first participants!

In his own words, Brandon describes what these programs have meant to him:

“I felt extremely honored to be part of the Young Adult and Mentorship programs. These are great because we get to know people our own age who have had similar experiences, and I love being able to talk to others about our cancer history and relate in ways that I'm not able to with anyone else. We've all been through the same things, so I don't feel like I'm being out of bounds or riding my high horse when I talk about my whole history. It's comforting, judgment-free, and really relaxing."

In 5 years, Brandon hopes to be finished up with school and working in his chosen field of study. His Shining Stars mentor, Bob, has been a huge help to him in creating this vision for his future.

“Bob has been great for me, helping me find jobs, get my resume around, and many other things. I can always rely on him when I feel like there's nobody else to talk to.”

In the future, Brandon also hopes to give back through volunteer-work and to meet someone special and start a family. We have no doubt that with persistence and dedication, Brandon will accomplish all of his goals. At Shining Stars, it is our honor and privilege to support kids like Brandon, and to help them realize their full potential. As Brandon states, he is out to “fully prove to this world that I may have been pushed down, but I am not out!”

Alyssa Oswald.jpg

Alyssa O.

Alyssa, who attended the Aspen Winter Games in 2010, is now a junior at Youngstown State University in Ohio. She plays for the Penguins as an outside hitter on the varsity volleyball team! Last year, she was named to the Dean's List and earned the ICCAC all-conference academic award at Iowa Western. You’re amazing, Alyssa! Keep it up!

Izaac K.

On August 17th, Izaac’s family is celebrating Izaac's homecoming and end of treatment! Izaac has been such a trooper his family wants to honor him with a celebratory BBQ. He has been a champ throughout his latest stem-cell transplant, and we are so proud of his fighting spirit. You got this, Izaac!

Izaac Kinnison 2016.jpg

Brandon B.

Big congratulations to Shining Star Brandon Barbosa, who graduated from high school last May, and will be attending Metro State College this coming Fall! Way to go!