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Shooting victim's wish brings smiles to fire families

By: KRISTINA IODICE
September 15, 2012
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photo - Nicholas Collins, 4, picked out a set of golf clubs just perfect for him Saturday Sept. 15 at Coronado High School during a sporting goods giveaway for those impacted by the Waldo Canyon fire. His father and sister both play golf. Photo by Kristina Iodice, The Gazette
Nicholas Collins, 4, picked out a set of golf clubs just perfect for him Saturday Sept. 15 at Coronado High School during a sporting goods giveaway for those impacted by the Waldo Canyon fire. His father and sister both play golf. Photo by Kristina Iodice, The Gazette 

A pink and purple bicycle helmet with a parade of kittens around the edge was just one thing in a bag of sporting goods that made a little girl smile Saturday.

“It’s all so great,” said 6-year-old Amber Malushka.

More smiles came from other kids, and adults, as they picked out equipment at a giveaway Saturday morning at Coronado High School for those impacted by the Waldo Canyon fire.

“Things like this are just amazing,” said Cindy Malushka, Amber’s mother. “It brings the community together.”

Their home was one of 346 homes destroyed when Waldo Canyon fire burned into Colorado Springs on June 26. “People have lost so much more,” Malushka said.

The truckload of donations came to city by way of another tragedy.

Jessica Redfield Ghawi, one of 12 people killed July 20 in the Aurora movie theater shooting, wanted to do something to help families impacted by this summer’s Colorado wildfires. The aspiring sports journalist’s family and others wanted to honor her memory by fulfilling that wish to help others.

A Precious Child and Kroenke Sports collected five tons of sports equipment for the giveSPORTS Program in Ghawi’s memory.

“It was beyond anything we expected,” said Aaron Smith, director of development for A Precious Child. “We’ve taken a bad thing and turned it into inspiration.”

Sports were an integral part of Ghawi’s upbringing and she wanted all children to have the same opportunities, organizers said.

“I never met her, but she had a tremendous heart,” Smith said. “it’s a great way to continue her legacy.”

Organizers contacted Coronado High School, one of the area schools impacted most by the fire. Students from the football team and Cougars Care, Coronado’s student community service group, volunteered at the Saturday event.

Sports can have an incredibly positive impact on kids, and teach lessons about teamwork, responsibility and respect, said Courtney Rogers, director of programs for A Precious Child.

“Colorado is such an outdoors place,” she said, adding that it also gives kids something to do outside of school. The sports equipment giveaway helped kids while fulfilling a dream, she said, as Ghawi’s mother told her: “I just wanted to check something off her bucket list.”

Some of the equipment leftover on Saturday will go to groups that work with children in the region. Another truckload of equipment will be delivered to Fort Collins next weekend, for those impacted by the High Park fire.

Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina

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