Vail Valley steps up for Sterling |

Vail Valley steps up for Sterling

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailySterling Winnegrad, right, plays with Zack Flynn, 7, during the Vail Recreation District's after-school program at Red Sandstone Elementary school in Vail, Colorado.

VAIL, Colorado ” Sterling Winnegrad’s legs may not move as gracefully as the children he plays with in Vail, Colorado, but that doesn’t mean he can’t participate in the same games or have just as much fun as everyone else.

Sterling, 8, has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects his body movement and muscle coordination. He uses a walker to get around, and needs some extra attention ” attention the Vail Recreation District has gone out of their way to provide, said Sterling’s mother, Renee Winnegrad.

“They aren’t just accepting of him,” she said. “They appreciate what he has to offer and it touches my heart.”

Sterling rides an ECO Transit bus from Brush Creek Elementary, in Eagle, to Vail by himself three days a week to attend the Vail Recreation District’s after-school program at Red Sandstone Elementary.

Scott and Renee Winnegrad live in Eagle and work in Vail. When another after-school program didn’t work a few years ago, they had to find a way to get their son care elsewhere. They needed help getting him there as well.

Renee Winnegrad did a little research and discovered the county’s ECO Transit bus could accommodate her son and his walker by bringing him to Vail three days a week at no charge.

Sterling had been attending the Vail Recreation District’s Vail Camp in the summers. He had a personal aide at the camp who helped him participate in all of the same activities as the other campers. The aide, Jennie Garcia, agreed to also help Sterling at the after-school program in Vail, but there was a catch.

Garcia couldn’t help Sterling unless she could find a way to put her own three children in after-school care ” something she couldn’t afford.

That’s where everyone’s teamwork came into play to make it all happen. The Vail Recreation District cut Garcia a break with some of the tuition for her children. They made it possible for Garcia to not only care for her own children, but also for Sterling ” the two had bonded in the summer camp and Sterling really wanted her to be his aide throughout the year.

Chad Young, the youth services director with the Vail Recreation District, said all the pieces just fell into place. The rec district saw it as an opportunity to continue serving Sterling.

“It was the right thing to do,” Young said.

Having Garcia give Sterling one-on-one attention allows him to do everything the other children do, like go on field trips and play in the park, Young said.

The other children in the program all understand that playing games with Sterling means the rules will be a little different, but everyone works together and Sterling feels welcome, he said.

Sterling enjoys running around the gymnasium with the other children, but what he really loves is learning. He laughs when he talks about how much he enjoys school because he knows how much most kids hate it.

“I just love school,” he said.

Garcia helps Sterling with his homework and she helps him move his walker around during playtime. She’s there for him as his helper, but most of all she’s there as his friend.

“I call him my buddy,” Garcia said.

Renee and Scott Winnegrad are thankful for the open arms that have given their son a chance to get the after-school care he needs, while having fun at the same time.

“Some people withdraw their hand and others extend it,” Renee Winnegrad said. “It would have been impossible to make (after-school care for Sterling) work without the community stepping in, and we’re grateful for that.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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