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It all started with a boy named Mickey. In 1983, as Jim “Moose” Barrows was driving his son Mickey back from Children’s Hospital Colorado, where he was being treated for a heart condition, the toddler said something to his father that lit a spark in Moose’s heart.

With Christmas just around the corner, Mickey was concerned about whether Santa would know where to find the kids who would have to stay at the hospital through the holidays.

Sadly, Mickey passed away soon thereafter, but his memory lives on through Mickey’s Fund, a program established by Moose to honor his son, and that has evolved into what the hospital now calls Snow Pile. What started with Moose and other Steamboat residents collecting toys and donations, and hauling them to Denver to deliver them to the children at the hospital, has grown into a two-day gift extravaganza for in-and outpatient families who are struggling.

New, unwrapped toys and monetary donations are currently being collected in Steamboat and will be delivered to Children’s Hospital Colorado on December 20. Donation locations include Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty offices, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Wells Fargo downtown Steamboat, and Yampa Joe’s at UC Health.

The program serves over 1,000 children each year, ranging in age from infant to adolescent. Over the two-day event, the children and their families enter a room overflowing with toys – everything from bikes to iPads, stuffed animals to trucks. “It’s a tough thing to describe,” says Moose. And Harry Thompson, who has volunteered the past several years at the event, says that “it truly brings the Christmas spirit alive, and is something that you will never forget.”

According to Anne Hanson, Philanthropy Director at Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, “The families served by Snow Pile are selected by our social workers. Not only do parents get to pick out age-appropriate gifts for their sick and injured children, but they also get to pick out gifts for their other children, as well.”

It is a simple way to make a difference in the lives of children who are spending the holidays in the hospital, and a way to bring their families some holiday joy.

For more information, please call 970.879.8100.