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Features

  • With illumination from the evening stars and the flicker of candles, dozens gathered Dec. 28 at Clement Park to mourn the death of Nathaniel Griego.

    The 14-year-old Dakota Ridge High School freshman died several days after being shot on Dec. 23 by a 15-year-old friend at his South Jeffco home, according to authorities.

    Friends, acquaintances and peers from Dakota Ridge, Columbine and Chatfield high schools gathered to share a prayer, a hug or a kind memory of Griego.

  • When you think of Santa Claus, you might think of the color red. It is one of the traditional colors of Christmas, and it’s the color of his cozy suit.

    And last Thursday, Santa gave away his first gift of Christmas. It, too, was red.

    The jolly elf, best known for delivering presents and eating cookies, donated blood at Bonfils Blood Center Southwest.

  • Laurie Lawless sat clutching a ponytail of her recently cut hair in her hand, her shock palpable to the 1,500 or so onlookers who filled the Dakota Ridge High School gymnasium.

    The Dakota Ridge mathematics teacher had not had a haircut in nine years — since the school held its very first Shave for the Cure event.

  • On a scenic parcel nestled at the base of the foothills at the edge of Chatfield State Park, healing is happening.

    Happy Dog Ranch began as a sanctuary for unwanted horses. And that is still very much part of the mission. With 53 grassy acres to roam, Happy Dog is a place where horses thrive.

    In addition to the 40-horse herd, alpacas, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks and a steer all call Happy Dog Ranch home, and the animals provide a unique learning tool for those who enter the gates.

  • Last Thursday was a happy day for Aron and Bret, a South Jeffco couple.

    As the first snow of the season fell outside the Jeffco courthouse, the pair finalized the adoption of their 5-month-old daughter, Kalyn.

    They were among 16 families who participated in Adoption Options’ celebration of Adoption Day. The Denver-based adoption agency has placed more than 1,800 children in permanent homes since its inception in 1981.

  • Hoisting sandbags over their shoulders, competitors kicked off last weekend’s inaugural two-day Monsters and Midgets fund-raising event by completing a weighted, mile-long run around CrossFit Watchtower.

    Though Monsters and Midgets is a traditional CrossFit event, this particular event was different in its charitable nature.

  • From across the gym at CrossFit Watchtower in Englewood, the shadow of a wheelchair is visible.

    David Ortiz of South Jeffco rolls out of the shadows and into the harsh light of the gym, weaving in and out of kettlebells and barbells to grab weights of his own.

    Pull-ups, push-ups, kettlebell swings, free weights — Ortiz does it all.

    The 34-year-old U.S. Army veteran became a T-10 paraplegic after a helicopter crash in June 2012 while overseas in Afghanistan.

  • After 33 years of service, volunteer firefighter Mark Bigler is bidding farewell to the Inter-Canyon Fire Department.

    Bigler, who joined the department in 1983, first saw firefighting as a way to give back to the foothills community. But ultimately the gig helped him feel at home in an area where it can be tough to meet new people.

  • “How many of you know ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes?’ ” librarian Nora Stewart asked a dozen kids who attended a special Day of the Dead celebration at the Columbine Library on Oct. 26.

    Smiles and icing covered the eager faces as they nodded their heads and waved their arms in confirmation.

    Stewart then proceeded to teach the children the familiar song in Spanish. All stood, touching their heads and repeating the words after Stewart.

  • William Witt never saw the front lines.

    But because of that, the 92-year-old World War II veteran says, he’s still here to recount the stories of his time spent in the South Pacific.

    Witt, a Wisconsin native, now lives at Brookdale Senior Living in Littleton. He worked in chemical warfare and considers himself to be lucky man.

    “I was just assigned to it. Luckily … If I’d have been out in the fire, shooting them off at the pillboxes, I might not be here,” he said.

  • Ladybugs, zombies, superheroes and Paul Blart the mall cop packed Dakota Ridge High School on Oct. 27 for the school’s annual Trick or Treat Street.

    The event, which has been held for approximately nine years, aims to provide a fun Halloween event for the community while also showing off the high school where many of the youngsters one day will attend.

  • The glow of the October sun sinks behind the mountains lining the Chatfield Senior High School football field. A whistle blows; the game is over; the crowd cheers loudly — Chatfield wins.

    Sophomore running back Alex Malone, No. 18, who moved in June to South Jeffco from Texas, jogs off the field to join his team in celebration.

  • A black storage box sits under Shay Langley’s bed in her South Jeffco home, but it doesn’t contain extra clothes or shoes.

    Instead, it’s where she keeps a charred flap of skin, a mutated eyeball, a gaping, bloody mouth.

    Yet what might scare many inspires the 14-year-old special-effects makeup artist. In fact, she lives for the horrified gasps that the art inside her “creepy little monster case” creates.

  • As the Foothills CROP Hunger Walk began Sunday, several participants at the front of the procession grabbed gallons of water to carry on their journey around Johnston Reservoir at Clement Park.

    Though the day was warm, the water was not meant to quench their thirst. Instead, it was a sign of solidarity and a symbol of the struggle that many face when trying to meet their basic survival needs.

  • Alice Rudy and Juanita Barton both play the piano and love to dance. Both value time with their families and feel strongly about their faiths.

    But their similarities do not stop here. In fact, they merely begin. After Rudy celebrates a birthday Oct. 20, the next-door neighbors at Brookdale Assisted Living in Littleton will both be 104 years old.

    Still dancing

  • A Lookout Mountain family last week organized a community drive to collect snacks, sports drinks and other goodies for the Jeffco County Sheriff’s Office.

    Britt Gaskell and her three children decided that, in the wake of recent violence toward police officers across the country, they wanted to show their appreciation and “recognize all of you (officers) for your dedication and compassion to our community.”

  • In Diane Lundy’s house, few mornings are greeted with more anticipation than Saturdays.

    For seven weeks during the fall and spring, Lundy travels with her three children to South Jeffco from Denver to spend an hour at the Foothills Park & Recreation District’s Schaefer Athletic Complex. It’s one of those rare occasions when she can kick back and watch her 9-year-old son, Caden Hoff, really be a kid.

  • Deanna Curtis loves birds.

    All birds, really. It’s tough for her to pick just one favorite.

    “The barn owl’s my favorite owl. The red-tailed hawk’s my favorite hawk. The golden eagle’s my favorite eagle,” Curtis said, laughing. “It’s too hard to narrow it down to one favorite.”

  • Flames lit up the eyes of the children who stood captivated, watching black smoke fill the air.

    But despite the fire and the smoke, this is not a story of destruction. Rather, it is the story of educational fun at the West Metro Fire Rescue Training Center, which hosted its 22nd annual Family Fire Muster on Saturday.

    The event allows attendees to learn proper fire safety techniques, dress as firefighters, participate in the junior firefighter challenge, and check out the inside of the department’s fire trucks.

  • Children and their parents enjoyed an afternoon farming fruits and vegetables, shopping, and preparing sit-down meals — all while aboard a bus.

    The Spark City Children’s Museum bus, which was outside the Ken Caryl Safeway on Saturday, offered kids an opportunity to role-play and to learn about the farm-to-table food experience.