Thursday, July 9, 2020

Paden’s Kids: Paden Castles Kelley Memorial Scholarship Fund established to honor community member

Fundraising event coming up

By Dawne Belloise

Paden Castles Kelley, who tragically passed away this past spring, was a fixture in the community even though he’d only been here a short two and a half years.

Paden was a ski instructor at CBMR, in addition to being the smiling face behind the concession counter at the Majestic Theater.

This past spring, the Crested Butte Snowsports Foundation (CBSF), in conjunction with the Kelley family, established the Paden Castles Kelley Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of Paden. The scholarship is designed to provide underserved youth in Gunnison County the opportunity to participate in the Mountain Adventures and Cruisers ski programs at Crested Butte Mountain Resort each year, and for years to come.

The fund is being administered by the CBSF with help from the Kelley family. It is the intention of the Kelley family to make the scholarship funds perpetual, and that the interest earned will pay for kids’ tuition in the program. So far, the fund has received over $7,000 in donations but to enable as many Gunnison Valley youth as possible for the upcoming ski season, the Kelley family, CBSF, and many friends of Paden’s in the Crested Butte community will be organizing a dart tournament to raise funds.

The tournament is scheduled to be held at Kochevar’s on Friday, September 13. Paden’s “famous” T-shirts will also be sold to help raise funds for the memorial scholarship. Those interested in the tournament or t-shirts can email

It will be open play from 7-10 p.m. and a playoff to determine the champion between 10-11 p.m. There is no sign-up ahead of time – just show up to pay for an open play slot and join the fun. And even if you don’t play darts, there will be plenty of music, fun people, raffle prizes, and “famous” merchandise with all profits going to Paden’s scholarship fund.

The 2019-2020 ski season is the inaugural year for the scholarship, which will be offered to potential participants in the Mountain Adventures or Cruisers program. The scholarship and those programs are specifically for local kids and CBSF has already heard from parents who cannot currently afford this program without assistance. Zach Vaughter, executive director of the CBSF says,  “We are hopeful that this is going to allow one or more local children to participate who couldn’t otherwise.”

Paden’s parents, Mary Beth and Scott Kelley, say the family’s goal is to help local kids learn to ski, “in honor of Paden’s passion for this community, skiing and most of all, teaching local kids to ski.” Mary Beth adds, “Parents of Paden’s ski school kids overwhelmingly told us that Paden didn’t just teach those kids to ski—he taught them about life, about how to take risks and to follow your passions, and most of all, how to love fully. They told us that he gave those kids a sense of self-confidence and a sense that they could do anything they really wanted to do.”

Paden grew up in the Austin, Texas area. His mother began visiting the Crested Butte area in 1970 during the summers when she was a teenager, as well as vacationing for a week in the winter. The family bought a house up Ohio Creek in the early 1970s. From the time he was born, Paden spent all his childhood summers and a few weeks every winter here with his family. His middle name, Castles, is from the castles rock formation seen from Ohio Creek Road. He was on skis and shussing down the slopes from the time he was three years old. In November 2016, Paden decided it was time to move full-time to the place he loved.

His mother recounts Paden’s philosophy. “He felt that you can’t help anyone if you can’t tell your story. He was a recovered heroin addict, sober since 2014, and that changed his outlook on life. Paden was also a talented poet, which was important to him, as was to be known beyond what he did for a living. He was a football star in high school, which he loved, and he’s got a rare story of someone who came out of addiction. He was very outspoken about it. He followed the 12 steps of AA but didn’t believe in staying anonymous. He was on the news in Austin, advocating sober living on campus. He got calls from high school friends and parents asking for his help after the broadcast. I know he saved some lives because of it.”

One of his life goals was to be a ski instructor, and another goal was teaching English in Southeast Asia, says his mother. “He had two full seasons as a ski instructor and then was diagnosed with testicular cancer in December 2018, just before the start of his third season. He felt there was something wrong but didn’t have it checked out. It’s the other message that his family would like to share: Get checked regularly.”

Mary Beth notes that Paden taught skiing to all ages but loved taking on the Mountain Adventurers and the Cruisers the most. “It’s a 13-week program for local kids. He got really attached to the kids, who also grew attached to him. The scholarship was based on the fact that he kept talking about how a lot of the local kids can’t afford the program, so when he passed away we wanted to set up a perpetual scholarship, not just for one year. We wanted something that would keep Paden’s name alive. We’re not quite there yet but we’ll get there to make it self perpetuating.”

To donate the Paden Castles Kelley Memorial Scholarship Fund online go to

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