Grand County’s Blue Star Connection goes global | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County’s Blue Star Connection goes global

Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News

Members of the Indian blues band Soulmate gather in a music shop with Sneha Sharma after she picked out her brand new Telecaster copy. Sharma is the fifth recipeint of a guitar through Blue Star Connection, a Grand County-based program that puts children with life-threatening diseases in touch with music.

Blue Star Connection, a Grand County-based program that puts instruments into the hands of children with life-threatening diseases, is not only touching lives in the U.S., it has spread to another continent.

The program’s latest recipient, Sneha Sharma, lives in the city of Ghaziabad, roughly three miles outside Delhi, India.

Sharma, 18, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in high school and has undergone chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant since her diagnosis. With the help of the Grand County Blues Society, she received a new guitar and amplifier a few weeks ago ” halfway around the world.

To say Sharma liked the gift is an understatement.

“I am so happy! I love my guitar … Sir thank you so much,” she wrote in an e-mail to Grand County resident John Catt, a founding member of the GCBS and Blue Star Connection.

Sharma’s gratitude would have been enough to send 10,000 guitars. Her personal story, one that involves crushed dreams and spending months in a hospital, so touched those involved in Blue Star, they were able to make the connection happen despite the distance.

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“At first, it was problematic because of where she was. It was $500 just to send the guitar,” said Catt.

But through some networking ” and a little luck ” Catt was able to contact a blues band in India called Soulmate, who he met in Memphis last year. Catt introduced the band members to Sharma through an e-mail, and told them of his endeavor.

“As geographically challenged as I am, I thought they might be close to each other.

But India is a big country ” bigger than Colorado,” Catt joked. “(But) the next thing you know they’re meeting up at a festival.”

Sharma and the members of Soulmate visited a music shop shortly thereafter, and with money donated through Blue Star, she was able to pick out a black Telecaster copy and an amplifier. She e-mails Catt often, expressing her gratitude for the guitar and the Blue Star program, and gives updates on her guitar playing (she even wrote her own song).

Sharma is the fifth recipient of the Blue Star Connection, which is part of the GCBS Blues In The School program. The program was started last year and is the first of its kind.

“Blue” stands for blues, Catt explained; “Shining Star” comes from the Shining Stars Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers programs for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

“Their children are stars,” Catt added. “Shining stars. And the ‘connection’ is between the child and the instrument ” and music.”

The program doesn’t only offer instruments, however. If a child wants to see a particular show or band, members of Blue Star can make it happen. Some kids have gone to see The Fray, James Blunt and .38 Special ” places they normally wouldn’t get into with their families. Some have been able to go backstage and meet their favorite rock stars.

As the program continues to grow, GCBS members are thinking up ways to raise more funds so they can accommodate more children.

Last Saturday the GCBS was able to raise several hundred dollars at its blues show through guitar donations, and Catt is looking toward possible grant funding. He also hopes to attract more members outside GCBS, so the program can stand on its own two feet.

As it is, the Blue Star Connection depends largely on two committee members ” Dave and Enid Strong of Evergreen ” who buy and ship the guitars themselves, Catt said.

“It’s open to people who want to help. We want to put together a group that can manage this,” he added. “We have the ability to help kids right now, but we haven’t gone out and aggressively tried to find (them). You’ve got to be hesitant until you’re better prepared.”

Colin Connors of Denver was the first kid to be helped by the Blue Star Connection.

He has played a major role in letting others know about the program.

Through an Internet chat line, he is able to spread the word to hundreds of other children with cancer. Connors, 19, was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumors when he was younger and was the first recipient of a brand new guitar through Blue Star.

He once told Catt: “Anything that brightens the day (helps).”

For children such as Connors and Sharma, Blue Star Connection has helped make a difference ” despite their hardships. Sharma recently suffered a relapse and may need to undergo radiation therapy, but she continues to be upbeat and positive, Catt said, and still practices her guitar. Her love for life, her friends and family and music keep her spirit strong.

In an essay about her experience, Sharma wrote: It’s not always about making plans in life; it’s about getting to know life.”

Through Blue Star, Sharma learned that life is also about making connections.

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