Linda Curzon and Margie Callahan are looking forward to receiving 20 houseguests this weekend.
The youngsters from inner-city Denver won't actually stay at the Curzon and Callahan households -- they'll spend Saturday night at United Methodist Church. They'll also be treated, thanks to the efforts of the two Steamboat Springs women, to a weekend of hospitality that includes picnics, gondola rides, visits to hot springs, a rodeo performance and a ride on The Howler Alpine Slide. The youngsters from the Salvation Army Red Shield learning program and the Wilfrey Branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver were invited to Steamboat as a reward for their continued high academic achievement.
"We really emphasize education and school test scores. The children in our program range from very needy to solidly middle class," said Roberta McKinney of Salvation Army Red Shield. "They all come from the Five Points neighborhood, which has the No. 1 crime rate, the most gangs and the most single-parent households" in metro Denver.
Curzon and Callahan are not board members with any nonprofit organization. They are two individuals who were given a challenge and have persevered to see it through.
Callahan said she and Curzon met after a mutual friend urged them to undertake personal-skills training with an organization in Colorado Springs called VisionWorks International.
"They challenge you to live to your fullest and to challenge yourselves," Callahan said.
VisionWorks promises that people who attend its workshops will add to their own body of knowledge, and by increasing their "sense of wholeness," they will find all areas of their lives magnified and strengthened.
Curzon said that, through VisionWorks, she helped organize an effort in Colorado Springs to find donated furniture for a young man setting up a new household. He was making a transition from life on the streets to a teen shelter and, finally, to his own apartment.
When she was challenged by her mentors at VisionWorks to organize a visit to Steamboat for 10 youngsters within four days, she wasn't sure she could pull it off. Her initial calls met with rejection, but she e-mailed human services organizations in Denver, and the ball began to roll. Curzon decided to double the number of youngsters when she received enthusiastic responses from two agencies advocating for youth.
Curzon organized a schedule of activities for the youngsters, and Callahan stretched her own personal boundaries by taking on fund-raising and seeking in-kind services.
"At first, I thought, 'Oh no, what did I get myself into?'" Callahan said. "But you break through (your reluctance), and you find out people are happy to do it. It's amazing to learn what two random people can accomplish."
Callahan hopes that the beauty of the Yampa Valley will have a profound effect on a group of inner-city children and let them see a different world from the strife experienced in their own neighborhoods.
McKinney said she's optimistic it will make the youngsters stronger.
"Anything we can do to build their self esteem is a wonderful thing to help them resist gangs," she said.