The chips were falling upstairs at The Pinery at The Hill and Storm Troopers were marching downstairs. Dressed in holiday best, "Starlight kids" were escorted by Air Force Academy cadets, and carried signs with most-unusual wishes such as "To connect with people like me" and "To not be so scared."

These were all part of the Western-themed Casino Night fundraiser for Starlight Children's Foundation on Nov. 2. The event drew 235 guests and raised $30,000.

Starlight (starlight.org) provides Fun Center entertainment units and other special extras for hospitalized children and those going through lengthy outpatient treatments.

"It's the healing power of play," said director Robin McKinney.

Starlight is also there with teddy bears for pediatric patients because the stuffed animals "can take away the anxiety of a sick child." said McKinney.

Families whose lives often focus around their critically or chronically ill children are invited to Great Escapes events so they can get away for a short time to a ballgame, to the zoo or to other special locations.