Saddleback Ranch hosts free tubing party

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If you go

What: Saddleback Ranch Cowboy Christmas Party

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: At the ranch on Routt County Road 179

Getting there: Travel west of Steamboat Springs on U.S. Highway 40, paying attention to the mile markers. Watch for a left turn lane at mile marker 122, before reaching Milner. Follow C.R. 179 across the Yampa River and up a winding hill for three miles to Saddleback Ranch.

— Families wanting to share the holiday spirit will find what they are looking for Sunday, as Santa and Mrs. Claus help collect new toys for Mickey's Fund during the Fourth Annual Saddleback Ranch Cowboy Christmas Party near Milner.

The event features free tubing on Saddleback's lift-served hill and hot chocolate from noon to 4 p.m.

"Last year we think we had almost 475 people come out," Saddleback's Lane Iacovetto said. "But it was hard to count them all."

The event is also an opportunity for area families to contribute a new toy that will be presented to a child spending the holidays in Denver's Children's Hospital. Steamboat Springs resident Moose Barrows began the toy fund 18 years ago in memory of his late son, Mickey, who died at the hospital at age 3 after suffering from a heart condition.

Laura Cusenbary of Prudential Steamboat Realty is organizing the toy drive. She said the availability of the toys for not only the young patients, but also their siblings, is a relief for parents trying to cope with a crisis during the holidays.

"The parents are often buried in medical bills, but they also want to give their families a Christmas. This is a way for the parents to be able to choose the appropriate toys for their children. The toys are grouped by categories and there's even a wrapping station at the hospital," Cusenbary said.

Toys, books and musical tapes often serve to distract youngsters from medical treatments, Cusenbary said.

The hospital's wish list includes simple, non-cloth toys for infants and toddlers, handheld video games and CD players. Musical CDs with lullaby music are popular. Arts and crafts materials and kits are also a top choice.

A truck, typically loaded with hundreds of toys, will deliver them to Children's Hospital on Dec. 20. Most of the toys come from Steamboat Springs, where they are collected in a large box in the lobby of Prudential Steamboat. Checks made out to Mickey's Fund also may be dropped off at the Prudential office. Cash contributions go to the Snowpile Fund, managed by the Children's Hospital Foundation.

Iacovetto said families coming to the ranch for the Cowboy Christmas Party should not bring their own sleds or tubes. The ranch has 125 special tubes that attach to the surface lift that serves the Yee Haw Tubing Hill. Children ages 5 and younger will be required to ride with an adult, she added.

Also during the Cowboy Christmas party, youngsters will be able to pet the ranch's three longhorn cows: Larry, Moe and Curly.

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