There were lots of family TV-star faces at the Celebrity Winterfest on Saturday at Kirkwood Ski Resort, but the real important people there were the 14 invited skiers like Steve Borstrom.
Borstrom? He's the big guy with a smile as wide as Capels Lake and the number 11 on his racing bib. He's also a Special Olympics athlete and he completed his first run on the giant slalom course.
"I think I beat the other guy," he said.
Borstrom, 50, is from Round Creek, Calif., and has been competing in Special Olympics for 18 years in Alpine skiing, softball, basketball, track and field, and bowling.
Looking up at the race course dotted with red and blue gates, he said, "I love it! I love everybody!"
And that's what it's all about at the Special Olympics. Getting people with disabilities out on the snow, letting them enjoy the fun of competition.
The striking thing about the celebrities, those who entertain us nightly on television, is their commitment to the Special Olympics.
Take Lewis Abernathy, who played Bodine in the film "Titanic."
"You get so much in return when you take part in these events," he said after making a "lousy" run. "They put me in to make everybody else feel good," he said. "This, it's a wonderful event, seeing the Special racers makes me proud to be here and part of it."
Towering comic Kevin Nealon, a veteran of Saturday Night Live and appearing in the forthcoming Adam Sandler film "Little Nicky," has been part of Special Olympic events for four years.
"It's events like this that help the handicapped enjoy the thrill of competition," said Nealon. "It gives them a challenge, and I don't mean that in the sense of being something like 'height' challenged. You see it in their faces after they cross the finish line. It's a challenge that they have met and conquered and they know it."
Bill Johnson, downhill Olympic Gold Medal at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1984, was happy to be there. "My mom did all the banners and signs for this Winterfest event and when they were looking for celebrities she said her son knew how to ski pretty well.
"So after a lot of e-mail flying it was all arranged and I'm delighted to be here. These Special athletes are something else, real sports persons."
During the racing, Johnson managed to edge Kirkwood ski school director Mike Fry to show he indeed does know how to ski.
One very important racer was Larry Garlik, CEO and chairman of the Remedy Corp., one of the main sponsors of the event. Under a sunny, blue sky and amid dazzling snow, Garlik awarded a check for $90,000 to the Special Olympics.
"We've been involved with the Special Olympics for four years and I've loved every minute of it.
"This is what I think sports ought to be. It gets the people with physical or mental problems involved, it gets volunteers involved and allows those who have faced these problems to experience the thrill of competition in a situation where no one loses."
Saturday night there was a special party at Caesars Tahoe where awards were made to the winners - everyone who took part.
Races Saturday featured a Special Olympian joining a corporate team as the first skier. Then there were seven members of a corporate team and finally one of the television celebrities. Total times determined which team wound up ahead. But of course, everyone won.
Some of the celebrities contributing their time include Lynn Henderson (Pam Olbes in "ER"); Vanessa Marcil ("Beverly Hills 90210"); Christopher Kennedy Masterson ("Malcolm in the Middle"); Paul McCrane (Dr. Romano in "ER"); and Lindsay Price (Janet in "Beverly Hills 90210").
Corporations sponsoring race tams include American Express, Cellular Warehouse, Excite@home, Exodus Communications, Inktomi Corp., Parrot Cellular, Pacific Bell, and Remedy Corp.