Co-op Strides to Support Colorado Resident
For Jeff Sittner, community is everything. It’s been that way since the day he was born in the close-knit town of Ovid, Colo., where he’s chosen to spend most of his life. Home to roughly 200 people, Ovid rests within Highline Electric Association’s service territory just minutes from the Colorado-Nebraska border. It’s the type of place where there are no strangers. When Jeff was born with several heart defects, the entire community stepped in to support his family as they navigated trips to and from Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver. More than three decades later, the support hasn't wavered.
When Jeff was born there were no signs of heart issues. It wasn't until weeks later that he started to turn blue and was rushed to the hospital. “They didn’t have the technology then that they do now,” Jeff explained, “Now they would know about the heart defect before a child is born.”
At six weeks old he underwent his first of many heart surgeries. Five years later, doctors performed the most serious surgery yet, telling Jeff's parents he had a thirty percent chance of making it off the operating table. He was at the hospital for three months.
Over the years, Jeff has undergone more than a dozen heart surgeries to reform his heart and restructure his arteries. He's overcome more health battles in 37 years than most experience in a lifetime, yet his outlook is one of gratefulness and a desire to give back.
Paying It Forward: The Ovid Days Color Run
After spending months of his life at Children's Hospital Colorado, Jeff has nothing but positive things to say. While some may dread returning to a place where multiple hardships ensued, he loves the doctors and nurses he’s treated by during his visits.
“The atmosphere is different, they really know how to connect with their patients,” said Jeff. "I still see the same surgeon that operated on me as a child, no one knows me better."
It was for this reason, the Sittner family felt the need to give back. They all had been positively impacted by the hospital's care and wanted to return the favor. They were sitting around chatting one day as they often do when they had the idea to start a Color Run. The Sittners quickly started planning their first-ever fundraiser. Between requesting road closures with the local police department and gathering donations, to securing t-shirt orders and volunteers, no need was left unmet.
"The community embraced it really well," said Jeff. "They've let us do whatever we need to do. Local organizations volunteer, the store donates water, we close off the highway for runners. Someone even drives around on a four-wheeler to bring the participants water."
The Ovid Days Color Run takes place every July in what the town knows as "The Section" and is a 5K run or walk. Along the way volunteers douse participants from head-to-toe in different colored powder. After the race participants and volunteers enjoy homemade breakfast burritos with ingredients donated from the local grocery store and prepared by the Sittner family. As the day goes on residents and visitors enjoy live music, food trucks, a softball tournament and water slides as a part of the town's annual Ovid Days.
At the end of it all, Jeff and his wife, Anne, hand deliver a check from funds raised by the race to Children's in Denver. Since it began in 2015, they've donated $27,000 to The Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
In addition to coordinating the race, Jeff donates his time and testimony to the hospital. He visits children with heart conditions like his own and shares his experience. "It's nice to reassure their parents that their child, while they'll go through struggles, can live a full life," Jeff shared. "I've had parents tell me that they thought their child's life was over but seeing me gave them hope."
Looking at Jeff, you would never know what he's been through. Although he still has frequent visits to the hospital, he's been able to live a normal life. He grew up playing baseball, went to college and is now married with two children of his own. He loves to socialize and help around the community. He volunteers on the school, town and cemetery boards, drives the school bus, substitute teaches and coaches the high school baseball team.
Highline Electric Association Steps in to Lend a Helping Hand
Everyone in Ovid knows Jeff's health story, including the many Highline Electric Association employees that live in the community. It's no surprise they've been involved in The Ovid Days Color Run since the very beginning. "Highline has always helped out a lot," Jeff said. "There are many Highline employees in Ovid who sign up to run or walk, they always donate their time and resources."
Jessie Heath works in member services for Highline and participates in the walk/run every year. "I love the very start of it. It’s fun to see all the participants together. People of all ages, the runners, walkers, people with kids in wagons and strollers...it’s just a great feeling," she said. Jessie said it's always easy to recruit Highline employees to take part in the event. "It's an event that brings our community together to support a great cause for a family we all know and love."
The admiration goes both ways. Jeff knows he likely wouldn’t get the same support in a big city. In his own words, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
It's Jeff's story and so many others that inspire Tri-State Generation and Transmission to volunteer each year for Alice Cares for Kids Radiothon, which is celebrating over 20 Years of Miracles made possible by our generous community. Consider donating to Children’s Hospital Colorado to give hope to past, present and future patients like Jeff Sittner.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42-member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.