Sunshine Kids help turn that frown upside down | SteamboatToday.com

Sunshine Kids help turn that frown upside down

John F. Russell

— We all have bad days.

This year it seems that I've had more than my fair share of days that I’d just as soon forget. Those days piled up faster than the snow in January, and after I wrecked my car last month, nobody really wanted to be around me. My mood has gotten worse over the last three weeks as I've patiently waited for a local repair shop to fix the damage and get my car back.

But my outlook changed a bit last week when I headed to Steamboat Ski Area to cover a group of children visiting our town as part of the annual Sunshine Kids Foundation visit. The organization works to add to the quality of life for children living with cancer by providing them with exciting, positive group activities.

In short, the group hopes to give these children an opportunity to feel like kids again, and from what I witnessed, the organization is succeeding.

The young men and women I encountered Friday have every reason in the world to be down, but after spending a few minutes with them, I realized that wasn't the case. They were smiling, laughing and enjoying each other's company.

The issues they are dealing with make my bad days look like a walk in the park. Most of them are battling cancer, some have lost limbs and others are facing an uncertain future. But I'm happy to report that not one of the 25 children I met last week are letting cancer ruin their day or interfere with the experiences that make life worth living.

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Sure, my guess is that they all have bad days, but at some point, these kids let their problems go and live life to the fullest — whether they’re are on a ski slope being introduced to snow for the first time or back at home going through things that no child should ever have to face.

I was lucky enough to meet a young man named Noah Elliott from Missouri, who understands first hand what a cruel foe cancer is. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at 16, and after undergoing surgery to save his leg, he developed an infection that eventually led to amputation.

Before he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, Noah loved to skateboard and snowboard. On Friday, he showed me that cancer may have taken his leg but it didn’t take away his ability to go out and do the things he enjoys. Noah cruised down a short race course and spent a week riding a snowboard — all with a smile on his face.

Noah was just one of 25 children who came to Steamboat Springs as part of the Sunshine Kids Foundation's annual visit. Each child had a story that could bring tears to your eyes, but I soon realized that's not what they wanted.

They hope their stories will be an inspiration to others dealing with cancer.

For me, their stories made me realize that while life is often full of challenges, it is also full of children like Noah. People who remind us how great it is to live in a world where something as simple as a smile can put an end to what we thought was a bad day.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966