Shhh… It’s Your Secret Santa!

The therapists and staff have a full schedule of activities planned for the upcoming holiday season. From cookie decorating to ice skating to a Christmas carol sing-along, there are plenty of opportunities for the children to celebrate the holidays. But one of our traditional favorites is the Secret Santa party, where the children select and exchange a gift with another child.

“The beauty of having a Secret Santa is that it gets the children thinking outside themselves, which can be a hard concept for many of them,” said Clinical Director Megan Cook, LCSW. “Our kids are often concerned about their own needs at a fundamental level, such as worrying about where their next meal is coming from. When their minds are consumed with these thoughts, there’s little capacity to consider what another child would want for a gift.”

With the help of volunteers from Red Rocks Church, who have organized the Secret Santa store for many years, the staff gently helps the children to select just the right present. “To watch a child carefully choose a gift for a friend is absolutely heartwarming,” Cook said.

The children will also visit the residents at a local nursing home, learn how the holidays are celebrated around the world, and attend a performance of Disney on Ice.

Eight-year-old Taylor is excited to take part in all the festivities. What is he looking forward to the most? He says it’s New Year’s Eve. “We can’t stay up until midnight because we’re just kids,” he said, “so we’re celebrating it at noon. That’s why we call it Noon Year’s Eve.”

Please join us in wishing Taylor and all the children at Mount Saint Vincent a happy and joyous holiday season.

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Paying Kindness Forward

Entrepreneur Carrie Dorr, founder of the fast-growing Pure Barre fitness franchise, has a vision: a gentler world where people regularly practice random acts of kindness. Toward that end, she founded the Soul Day Foundation, whose mission is to provide a day of delight to lift the souls of those in need. Dorr’s philanthropic endeavor — now a reality — was a long time in the making.

Dorr opened her first Pure Barre studio in 2001, growing the business to 100 locations by 2012. She brought in private equity to help build out the infrastructure, and ultimately sold her remaining interest. Today there are more than 365 studio locations nationwide.

Dorr said she views Pure Barre as one of the vehicles that enabled her to get the foundation off the ground in late summer of 2015. The idea behind the foundation is to spark kindness and demonstrate that spreading it is easy to do. “I’m a big believer that there needs to be more kindness in the world,” Dorr said, “and because of the way the world operates now, and the speed at which we do things, small kindnesses get overlooked. I think they mean a lot.”

Examples of recent “Soul Days” include back-to-school shopping for Denver Kids; purchasing work wardrobes for the women at Sacred Heart House; preparing a Thanksgiving meal for the Children’s Maternal and Fetal Heath unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado; and providing lunch for the entire staff at Mount Saint Vincent.

In addition to being a dancer and choreographer, Dorr is also an attorney. She researched numerous nonprofits in the Denver area and made personal visits to the organizations on her short list before selecting the foundation’s nonprofit partners. She chose Mount Saint Vincent because of the agency’s longstanding history in the community and the work it does for children.

Not only is the foundation committed to giving people a day of delight, it also offers those it serves the means to pay it forward to help someone else. One way the foundation does this is by distributing blank note cards and envelopes to Soul Day recipients, who are then asked to write a personal thank-you note. It doesn’t matter who is being thanked or for what. “This thoughtfulness exercise is on a tiny scale, but that’s the piece that makes you feel so good — giving to others,” said Dorr. The teachers, mental health workers, and other Mount Saint Vincent staff took their task to heart, penning notes to co-workers, family members, and friends.

During the coming months, Dorr and her staff plan to take the children snow tubing, to the movies, and to the Butterfly Pavilion. “We’re really excited,” said Dorr. “We have a lot of fun things planned for the kids and we’re looking forward to forming a long-term relationship with Mount Saint Vincent.”

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Kick Stand Up for Kids: A Year Later

“My goal is to give each child what I remember as one of my most prized childhood possessions: a bicycle.” – Mike Sullivan

One year ago, Mike Sullivan was in the final days of Kick Stand Up for Kids — his unassisted, 460-mile bike ride from Moab to Denver. His goal was to raise $15,000 for the bike program at Mount Saint Vincent, where each child who walks through our doors receives a bicycle, helmet, and protective pads to keep.

The trip took eight days, and Mike battled wind, rain, lightning, and steep elevation gains, but he never let it dampen his spirit. The most arduous day was a 60-mile ascent with an elevation gain of more than 4,000 feet against fierce head winds. “It was hands down the hardest day of the trip,” Mike recalled. “I don’t think I ever went over seven miles per hour the entire day.” That leg of the journey took an exhausting nine hours to complete. Mike said he briefly thought about giving up, but he just couldn’t do it. “I had to keep going for the kids,” he said.

When Mike rode up to Mount Saint Vincent’s doorstep, the children greeted him with cheers, balloons, and banners. Then, the kids joined him in a victory lap around the bike track on campus. It was a moment that was nothing short of incredible.



Thanks to the generosity of a host of supporters — including friends, family, community members, and Mount Saint Vincent donors — Mike exceeded his goal. In the end, he raised more than $16,000 for the bike program, an amount that will fund the program for a full five years. Since then, from November 2014 to August 2015, Mount Saint Vincent has given 37 children a bicycle and gear of their very own, plus taken on the repairs that come with bike ownership.

“Riding bikes gives the kids a sense of freedom. They get to choose how fast they go, where and when to turn,” said Rob Johnson, Mount Saint Vincent’s recreation therapist. “What an empowering experience for children who are growing and learning to trust.”

Mike Sullivan

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Special Delivery: UPS Makes Back to School a Blast

Last week, our friends at UPS brought a special back to school delivery to campus. Thanks to the generosity of their employees, each child in residential treatment at Mount Saint Vincent received packages that contained new school clothes and PJs.

However, it wasn’t just the packages that made the day so memorable. UPS drove a delivery truck onto campus grounds and hand delivered them right to the children’s bedroom doors. They even had the opportunity to use the handheld computer to “sign” for the delivery. For many of our children, this was the first time they had ever received a package. 9-year-old Brian, after noticing his initials on the outside, had to be talked into opening it since just seeing something addressed specifically to him was so meaningful. Once he finally did open it, he took out the folded clothes and refused to try them on. Instead, he set them neatly on a shelf in his room and told our staff, “I want to keep them special.”

After receiving their gifts, UPS gave each child a tour of the delivery truck and the chance to sit in the driver’s seat. They even learned the proper and safe way to enter and exit the truck—a method called the three point procedure.

Needless to say, the day was a hit. Thank you so much UPS for giving our children the opportunity to experience the excitement of receiving a package that’s just for them.

Our children are always in need of new clothing and supplies. If you would like to make a donation, please check out our Wish List or contact Meaghan Peters at mpeters@msvhome.org.

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