David Wikman helps Shadre Gaines, 15, stand up at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. The two were participating in 2007’s Sunshine Kids Winter Games, which will return to Steamboat Springs this weekend.

David Wikman helps Shadre Gaines, 15, stand up at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. The two were participating in 2007’s Sunshine Kids Winter Games, which will return to Steamboat Springs this weekend.

Sunshine Kids Winter Games returns to Steamboat

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— The Sunshine Kids Winter Games, one of the true feel-good events on Steamboat’s calendar, returns this weekend as 30 sponsored teenagers living with cancer come to town for six days of ski lessons, hot-tubbing, tubing and snowmobiling intended to remind them that life still can be good and to raise their self-esteem.

“Oncologists tell us sometimes this is the perfect prescription to help these kids get back to feeling good about themselves,” said Jennifer Wisler, Sunshine Kids Foundation director of children’s services.

The beauty and excitement of a winter ski vacation, Wisler said, helps to counteract the feeling, which young cancer patients often struggle with, that life no longer is as good as it once was.

“It’s about getting them back to enjoying life,” Wisler said.

And taking on the challenge of learning to ski at one of the world’s major ski areas can do a great deal to raise self-esteem, something that can be an issue for many teens who don’t have to worry about the implications of cancer.

“Think about all of the things teens already have to worry about, and then add cancer to it,” Wisler said.

The annual Sunshine Kids trip to Steamboat is supported locally by Prudential Steamboat Realty and the annual Kent Eriksen Tour de Steamboat century ride bicycle event.

Last year’s ride, including a fundraising event hosted by Prudential, raised $60,000 for Sunshine Kids, and with an expanded number of events for 2012, organizers hope participation will grow beyond the 700 people who took part in 2011.

The Tour de Steamboat is marketed and run by Eriksen’s wife, Katie Lindquist, and her business partner at Rocky Peak Productions, Brad Cusenbary.

The Sunshine Kids Foundation has been the network-wide charity of Prudential Real Estate since 1991, and Prudential Steamboat ranked eighth among 2,000 offices nationwide in terms of dollars raised in 2011, marketing director Paul Knowles said.

The group will be staying at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, and the week begins Sunday night with a pizza dinner, games and movies in the activity room at the hotel.

Ski lessons begin first thing Monday and continue through Thursday with excursions planned to Marabou Ranch, Saddleback Ranch and Howelsen Hill. Friday marks the last full day in Steamboat with the Winter Games themselves.

“A lot of these kids timidly step off the plane into a world the likes of which they’ve never seen,” Knowles said. “In fact, some have never even seen snow. After a truly magical week alongside 30 other kids in similar situations as their own, they exude newfound confidence. It’s a week of not just being a kid with cancer, but a week of just being a kid.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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