Last week I wrote about the Scott Hughes Foundation, whose major activity is to bring kids with serious kidney diseases to the YMCA to get them out of the hospital for a week of outdoor fun.

Following up on this theme, I just met with the program coordinator of the Shining Stars Foundation, an organization that also strives to bring the healing powers of the Rockies to kids with serious medical problems.

Shining Stars’ program coordinator Ryndi Zastrow sat down with me this week to discuss the 70+ programs they provide annually to kids with pediatric cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. Their mission is to “transform lives through year-round recreational social programs for children and families” facing such challenges.

One program that particularly grabbed my attention was the Grand County Family Adventure, a 5-day program that brings over 200 kids and family members to Grand County each July. The week is packed with activities, including a day at Winter Park Resort, a day in Grand Lake, summer tubing at the YMCA, and more! One of the most unique activities is a day of rafting with MAD Adventures on the Upper Colorado. This year, MAD Adventures took 75 kids and family members on an unforgettable whitewater trip!

This program is made possible by the generosity and support of the local Grand County community. Almost all of the meals and activities during the week are donated by local businesses, including Winter Park Resort, Smokin’ Moe’s, and Hernando’s. Mad Adventures, for example, provides rafting at no cost, and the raft guides argue over who gets the privilege of DONATING their time to participate.

Here’s how one parent expressed how this program affected their daughter:

“Our daughter has struggled to make friends since finishing her cancer treatment. And it was amazing to see her interact with the friends she’s made in Shining Stars. Her confidence was twofold! We don’t see this confidence in school. Most importantly, it reminded us that we aren’t alone. Many walk this journey and we aren’t alone.” – mother of a Shining Star

Shining Star operates in 24 states and has outdoor programs in other parts of Colorado, including week-long, overnight camps each winter and summer in Aspen. One interesting and unique aspect of Shining Star is that they provide services to participants for as long as they need support. In fact, the foundation’s newest program (the Young Adult Program) provides services and resources to young adult pediatric cancer survivors ages 18+.

I’m not sure if you can ever bottle the healing powers of the Rockies, but Shining Stars and the Scott Hughes Foundation (see last week’s story) come as close as any I’ve ever seen!

To read about Shining Stars go to And sign up for their Spin-a-Thon benefit on October 20th at Mountain Life Fitness