Dreams come true during 12th annual Stars of the Valley

Keston Denhalter poses for a photo with Tracy Lynn Cruz, who played the Yellow Ranger Ashley Hammond during Power Rangers Turbo and Power Rangers In Space. Scott Padgett photo.

A room of Pechanga Resort and Casino was transformed Saturday, Feb. 4, into a Hollywood award show-style event where members of the community who had faced significant challenges had their wishes granted.

During the 12th annual Stars of the Valley, put on by organization Charity for Charity, an adult, a young adult and child were each granted wishes.

Trips to locations around the country were given out and there were visits from some individuals of note, including the Yellow Ranger and Anna, Elsa and Olaf from the movie “Frozen.”

Brandy Barkely

Barkely, who has lupus, developed two other serious conditions while on medication for the illness. Because the lupus medication compromised her immune system, she developed a condition called disseminated histoplasmosis. She was also diagnosed with HLH, a life-threatening immune system condition. Barkely survived HLH but still lives with excruciating pain from lupus each day.

Barkely loves Disney, comedy shows and Italian food. She will be taking a limo ride to go to an Italian restaurant in Oceanside before seeing Christian comedian Tim Hawkins in April. She also received an entire year of free dining at Gourmet Italia, Prestifilippo’s restaurant. The final piece of Barkely’s wish was that she got to go to Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii.

Keston Denhalter

Denhalter developed a series of infections and illnesses during different rounds of Chemo to treat his stage 4 lymphoma. He ended up spending his 16th birthday in the hospital. After one six week stint, he had to learn to walk unassisted and write again. Denhalter is currently cancer free, but will need to start chemo again next year.

Denhalter, a comic book fan, had a wish to go to Comic-Con and Charity for Charity delivered in spades, giving Denhalter tickets to the DC Comics portion of the Warner Bros. Studio tour, annual passes to Universal Studios, tickets to Comic-Con in Portland and tickets to Comic-Con in San Diego.

For the San Diego Comic-Con, Denhalter and his friends will be escorted by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Tracy Lynn Cruz, who plays Yellow Ranger Ashley Hammond in the 1997 series Power Rangers Turbo and 1998 series Power Rangers In Space, introduced herself to Denhalter on stage.

Power Rangers has one of the biggest conventions in the world, called Power Morphicon, and it’s in August and I would love for you to be my special guest,” Cruz told Denhalter.

Lastly, Denhalter and his family received a Disney Cruise the Caribbean.

Raelynn Hoffa

Raelynn Hoffa, 5, has a MYLK gene mutation and vascular disorder that limits her blood flow. She has suffered eight strokes which limit her physical abilities and ability to speak.

Because of Hoffa’s condition, she can only go outside on days when weather conditions outside are optimal.

Hoffa received annual passes to Sea World in San Diego and  passes to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and San Diego Zoo so she and her family can make the most of days when the weather is fair.

The Hoffas, who said they were hoping to have a backyard that Raelynn could play with her sister in, got that. They received a backyard renovation that included a new patio cover for maximum sun protection, splash pad, artificial grass, a custom built playhouse and a new playset.

Because of Hoffa’s condition, she is sensitive to altitude and has never been able to see the snow, but the snow was brought to her in a way during the event with a special performance from characters from the movie frozen — Anna Elsa and Olaf from “Frozen.”

The Disney characters sang such songs as “The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway,” and “Let it Go,” much to the little girl’s delight.

Alex Ruiz

A special guest during the evening was Alex Ruiz, the Linfield Christian quarterback who made the decision to amputate a portion of his lower leg  in the coming weeks after suffering an injury while playing the game.

Ruiz received a new wheelchair that he was hoping to get as well as a signed football signed by retired NFL offensive tackle Jackie Slater.

Valley News’ Paul Bandong honored

During the event, eight members of the community were given awards in such categories as “Temecula Has Heart, Because Nice Matters” Award, “Team Player” Award and “Honorary Service” Award.

A special award that was given out was the Stars in the Sky award, which was made in honor of Jerry Delisle, a longtime supporter of the organization from behind the scenes who died in 2015.

This year’s Stars in the Sky Award went out to Paul Bandong, Valley News’ Vice President of Sales and Marketing who was a long time supporter of nonprofits and events, including Stars of the Valley. Bandong died earlier this year.

Bandong’s son, Anthony, and wife, Tammy, accepted the award.

Bandong had a “heart of service,” said Lori Delisle, one of the individuals behind the award.

“Paul’s passion to promote our cause was evident everytime we spoke with him,” Delisle said. “He would stop in our office, say hi and sit and talk about what we had coming up.”  

Previous honorees return

Honorees from previous year’s events returned this year to witness the happenings, including Kassidy Brewer, the survivor of a massive brain aneurysm.

Brewer was granted her wish to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and enjoy everything the historic city had to offer in 2016.

“My main thing was to go for their food,” she said. “I wanted to feast and experience all their flavors.”

Brewer said her favorite part of attending the Stars of the Valley events is seeing other people be able to embark on similar adventures.

“I just enjoy seeing all of what the beneficiaries win and how they don’t even know how fulfilling it is until they experience it and then they see the effect (it has) on them and how happy they are for next year’s beneficiaries to experience that themselves.”

Medically retired Marine Sgt. Billy Hamlett, who was given a wheelchair accessible vacation in Utah with his family in 2017, agreed with that sentiment.

“Being in that situation last year and seeing that now kind of brings the whole circle back together,” he said. “It’s really cool seeing that because I know what they’re going to be feeling, but to be able to see that is going to be really heartwarming to me.”


The winners of eight community awards were:

City of Temecula, “Temecula Has Heart, Because Nice Matters” Award – Pamela Babek

Team Forss,A llison James Real Estate, “Team Player” Award – Ryan Phillips

La Pointe Wealth Management, “Invest in Others” Award – Lynn Shaver

Tourmaline Enterprise, “Silent Saint” Award – Donna Sciortino

Temecula Valley Neurosurgery, “Got Your Back” Award – Chris Carrera

Loma Linda University Medical Center, “Healing. Healthy. Happy.” Award – Brooke Foster

Honorary Service Award – Sarah Rudder

Charity Award – Hospice of the Valley

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