Steamboat Springs Laura Sturges couldn't find the words to describe her experience.
After walking into a room piled high with new toys - many of which were donated by Routt County residents - last Christmas at Children's Hospital in Denver, Sturges had difficulty keeping her emotions in check.
She said seeing parents of children forced to spend the holidays in a hospital room find the perfect gifts to warm their hearts and take their attention away from their illnesses, even if just for a moment, was a holiday gift in itself.
"You talk about a way to kick off your holiday experience," said Sturges, a Steamboat resident. "It makes you very grateful for what you have."
The annual Children's Hospital event has grown from a toy fund started 18 years ago by Steamboat resident Jim "Moose" Barrows.
Barrows began the fund in memory of his son, Mickey, who spent three years at the hospital with a heart condition. After Mickey's death at age 3, Barrows received money from sympathetic friends and family.
He put the money into the Mickey Barrows Memorial Trust and used it to purchase Christmas toys for children at the hospital. The fund continued to grow after the death of Barrows' father, Ray Barrows, who asked that all memorial donations go to the trust.
Mickey's Fund is now organized by Snowpile, a program coordinated each year by the hospital's Therapeutic Recreation Department. But hundreds of toys still make their way from the Yampa Valley to Denver every winter. The local collection point is the Prudential Steamboat Realty office in Wildhorse Marketplace.
Sturges, who is organizing the local drive, said toys need to be dropped off by Tuesday. They will be loaded onto a truck and hauled to Children's Hospital on Wednesday.
The hospital's holiday wish list includes simple, non-cloth toys for infants and toddlers, electronic items such as handheld video games and CD players, appropriate DVD and video movies and arts and crafts materials and kits.
Musical or push-button books and toys, lullaby CDs and "I Spy" books will help children relax during medical procedures. For those who would rather donate money, checks can be made out to Mickey's Fund and dropped off at the Prudential office.
For more information, call Sturges at 879-8100.