Colorado couple’s connection to Courage Classic runs deep
July 22, 2017
A baby boy who died three months after his birth, Colton Carter Gibson, was an old soul who never knew what it's like to have things easy.
Brought into this world Dec. 12, 2015, Colton was Sam and Britney Gibson's first child, and they called him "Moose," a reference to the moose pacifier he wouldn't let go of.
"He was just an old soul," Britney recalled of her son taken from her too soon. "You look into his eyes, and it's like, 'You're not three months old, you're 40.'"
On Saturday, the Gibsons picked up their son's fight, as the couple from Arvada joined more than 2,000 other cyclists for the 2017 Courage Classic, an annual bicycle tour in support of the Children's Hospital Colorado.
Colton's birth wasn't without complications, and doctors quickly discovered the newborn suffered from three previously undiagnosed congenital heart defects. More basically, he had half of a heart.
"When all you see is healthy children, you don't really know what's out there," Sam said of his reaction to the terrible news. "So it's this crazy thing that we weren't ready for. It was undiagnosed, and all of the sudden, boom, it hits you. It hits you right in the face."
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After undergoing multiple operations, including two open-heart surgeries, Colton died on March 14, 2016. The boy spent most of his life on strong medication, his father said, and he didn't get much time.
"Colton never knew what easy was," Sam said. "He only knew what hard was, so the hard fight was normal for him."
And Colton's parents remember their son as a consummate fighter, one who never gave up even though he faced insurmountable odds. What's more, the Gibsons said, is that through it all, Colton kept surprising everyone, recovering from his operations quicker than expected, living longer than doctors ever said he would, bucking predictions that he would be paralyzed on one side of his body, and all the while, he never quit smiling.
"With everything our son went through, this was our fight," Sam said after crossing the finish line at the Courage Classic.
One reason Saturday's ride was so important to the Gibsons is because the hospital that treated their son holds a very special place in their hearts. In the seat, the couple powered through 40 miles of high-altitude pedaling, riding from Copper Mountain to Vail and back, all the time with photos of their smiling son pinned to their backs.
The bicycle tour — it's not a race in any way — continues today, and its beneficiary, the Children's Hospital Colorado, stands as the only nonprofit hospital exclusively for children in the region, according to Erin Bodine, the hospital's communications manager.
Even though neither Britney nor Sam ever wanted to be there, they both said they couldn't imagine life now without the hospital and the people who work there.
"We had the worst happen to us there, but it's also so calming," Sam said of the staff while he and Britney described them as "closer than family."
In addition to Colton, Britney also carried Jaxton Wayne Kitchin's name on her back to honor him and his family. Jaxton was born with a heart too big for his body, and he too died at three months.
"It's crappy to have to be there, but it's the best place ever," Britney said of the hospital. "(Sam and I) were talking in bed last night, and everything in our life now revolves around the Children's Hospital."
In fact, before Colton was born, Britney had planned to be a graphic designer, going to college and majoring in the field. All of that changed when Colton was born, however, and his mother, who came to know the hospital well during her son's stay, now works there and is taking classes to become a nurse.
"There's just something so special about Children's Hospital," she said of her connection to the nonprofit.
And the Gibsons weren't alone Saturday, as most of the riders at this weekend's event also have a direct connection to the hospital, be it as the parent of a patient, as a former patient themselves or as a family member of a child who received treatment there.
For some of the children who rode in the tour, it was the first time they were well enough to participate. For other families, their child had passed away, and they are riding in their honor to continue research for a specific disease.
Exhausted, neither Britney nor Sam quit Saturday as they pushed to the finish line, though they were not nearly as well trained for the ride as they had hoped to be before it started.
"There were so many times during that ride that I was like, 'There's no way I'm making it up that mountain,'" Britney said. "But you know what, I thought if I can't ride my bike, I'm going to push it up the mountain and so I just started walking."
Colton didn't live long, but the boy was never alone, and he was loved.
The team the Gibsons rode for, the Cardiac Climbers, will continue raising money for Children’s Hospital through Aug. 31. As of Sunday morning, they’ve raised $128,476, which is 64 percent of their goal. For more, http://support.childrenscoloradofoundation.org/site/TR/CourageClassic/General?pg=team&fr_id=1450&team_id=3711 .
"I know as hard as it is," Sam said, "people need to love their children and fight for them."
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