On Saturday evening, two days and three nights into Connie Stevens' 12th Annual Celebrity Extravaganza, festivities were in full stride. People from all walks of life filled the Jackson Hole, Wyoming ballroom. With the evening's events gearing up, a silent auction was going full bore. Angel Frisbee, a young woman with Cerebral Palsy known widely throughout the local community by her radio station moniker, "Wamo," stared longingly at a football autographed by her hero Herschel Walker. Without enough money to consider bidding on this treasure, she admired it from afar. Jason Priestley, one of the stars of the long running television series Beverly Hills 90210 and the hit movie Tombstone, noticed Wamo admiring the football. Without hesitation, he walked over to her, introduced himself, and asked her if she would like him to bid on the football. Wamo's eyes lit up and her smile was wide. "That would be way cool!" she exclaimed. So the bidding began. With the prized football eventually raising stakes to the level of $350, Jason's final bid won the pigskin. He then graciously presented it to Wamo, simultaneously winning him a fan for life and donating $350 to a worthy cause.

This scene was one of many repeated over the course of the 2001 renewal of Ms. Stevens' annual event, which was held March 8-11. With a myriad of activities packed into this four-day celebration, celebrities worked hard alongside persons with disabilities to raise money for Community Entry Services Foundation (CESF). Based out of Jackson Hole, CESF in turn supports Community Entry Services (CES), a not-for-profit corporation providing community-based services for children and adults with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. By providing people with life skills and job training, CES fulfills its mission to empower people with disabilities, maximize their independence, and help them lead productive lives in their communities.

The sports and social activities of the Extravaganza took place in the heart of Jackson Hole, a town nestled against the majestic splendor of the Teton Range. A blend of cowboy chic and old-fashioned western hospitality, the picturesque town offers a chance to experience the authentic western life with all the comfort of a sophisticated resort. In Jackson Hole style, the event was kicked off on Thursday with an opening social at the Teton Pines Resort and Country Club. With music and good cheer, the celebrities and sponsors had a chance to begin generating the incredible energy that was sustained throughout the entire event.

The following afternoon, an exciting new event named the Vertical Ski Challenge provided local fifth and sixth graders an opportunity to raise money in support of Community Entry Services' brain injury awareness program LEAPS (Learning Empathy and Prevention Steps). In preparation for the Tommy Hilfiger sponsored Challenge, the students gained pledges of money for how many feet of skiing they could accomplish in a two-hour period. On Friday, students skied and snowboarded their hearts out at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort located in Teton Village. Celebrities such as Saturday Night Live's Cheri Oteri, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Chris Potter, Jason Priestley, June Lockhart, Lyle Waggoner, Jonathan Silverman, Mark Feuerstein, Robert Loggia and many others came out in full force to support brain injury prevention and understanding of disabilities by skiing with and cheering for the students.

LEAPS is a three-part education program designed to work through the school system with the goal of teaching students empathy for people with disabilities instead of sympathy. The innovative program gives students a chance to experience what it might feel like to have sensory impairment, physical disability or cognitive disability, and teaches injury prevention through the use of helmets and seat belts. As part of the LEAPS program, CES has donated hundreds of helmets to Wyoming kids to prevent traumatic brain injuries. Michael Petersen, multi-award winning country western singer, reflected on this event: "CES is a great organization. It helps young people learn about traumatic brain injury and helps people with traumatic brain injury. I've been part of a lot of fundraisers, and I've got to tell you, hands down, this is the most exciting, fun event I've ever been a part of."

While some celebrities were testing their skills on the ski slopes, others along with NHL alumni such as Neal Broten, Bill Ranford, Tony Tanti, Tiger Williams and Ron Duguay were participating in a youth hockey clinic for the local kids sponsored by the Bank of Jackson Hole. Youth skaters had the unique opportunity to learn hockey skills from some of the great legends of the game. As a highlight of the clinic, every child who participated received a personalized signed photo of Bobby Orr courtesy of MasterCard.

Sponsored by MasterCard and COACH, the Wild Ice Night Hockey Challenge took place Friday evening. The Jackson Hole Moose squared off against the Celebrity All Stars in the Extravaganza's third annual hockey game. For the first time, the All Stars won the match. The final score was 9-3. For each goal scored, COACH donated $500 to the cause. Throughout the game, celebrities mingled with the crowd and gave autographs. Tracy Folks-Hansen of MasterCard Canada said, "It's great to be a part of hockey. It's even better to be part of CES and this event that Connie Stevens puts on every year. This is the first year that MasterCard has been part of this event and we're just overwhelmed with how great it's going."


More stories from Marie Osmond issue:

ThinkQuest in Geneva; The ABILITY Magazine Award

Ricardo Penalver; The legendary artist

Interview with Marie Osmond

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