Sampson, Charles H. and Laura (Kitchen)

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .




Buzz Sampson

(1947 - )

Laura Sampson

(1947 - )

Attending Regis University in Denver is what brought Buzz to Colorado in 1965 from his home in Northbrook, Illinois.  Laura relocated to Denver in 1969 to teach elementary school after getting her degree in her home state of Kansas. They met in Denver.  After marrying, they purchased land and in 1977 built the eighth home in the Soda Creek subdivision, which boasts more than 200 houses in 2012.

Buzz owned and operated Team Electronics in Evergreen in 1970, and in 1985 the couple bought The Snow Leopard sporting goods business while it was situated in the historic octagonal barn, formerly part of the Hiwan Ranch.  The Snow Leopard was one of the first stores in Evergreen to have a computerized inventory.  They relocated the business to Bergen Village where Buzz operated it for many years, closing the store in 2002 but continuing to sell sporting goods online.  The Snow Leopard was a major player in the Evergreen business community and focused its community support on education, Drive Smart, and Channel Six.

With three children in local schools, Laura devoted her volunteer time to parent-teacher groups, the Leadership Council of Bergen Elementary, and the Mountain Area Forum for Jefferson County Schools.  Both parents were Scout leaders.

Both volunteered for Evergreen High School's All-Night Party, which typically coincided with the final night of the Channel Six Auction. They would work the auction until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and then report to the graveyard shift of the All-Night Party, that ran until dawn and required cleanup afterward.

Following up on the vision of others who wanted to start a group of female university graduates, Laura became the first president of the the Evergreen Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).  The organization brought in numerous speakers, started the Mountain Area Science Fair for elementary schools, and held a discussion group on international matters; it dissolved in 2001.

The Teen/Parent Support Group

The Sampsons were the moving force behind the highly-successful-but-low-key parent-teen support group concept in Evergreen.  The first support group formed in about 1987, comprised of 14 families with eighth graders at Evergreen Junior High School, a group that would stay together for five years until the students graduated. The concept was inspired by a talk given by Marilyn Sandifer who'd said, "If you ever need support, it's while raising teens."

The co-ed support group was hand-picked by the students themselves and included parents but not siblings. Many of the parents had not known one another prior to the formation of the group.  Religious backgrounds ranged from Protestant to Catholic, Jewish to Christian Science, which contributed to many opportunity to share values and beliefs as well as many different viewpoints over the years.

The group met once/month August through May, and each family was responsible for planning one of the monthly sessions and deciding where it would be held.  It could be a discussion, purely social, a field trip, an activity such as bowling, or having a speaker. Meetings could be scheduled in a family's home or at any location.

The group addressed issues, participated in community activities, and enjoyed fun activities as well.  Some of the topics included things such as preparing for SAT and ACT exams, good grades, responsible driving, the dangers of drinking and driving, the dating arena, the milestones and markers in a lifetime, and sexual concerns.

When fun activities such as bowling and miniature golf were involved, teens and parents were each on separate teams to build greater familiarity with others.  Field trips included places such as a comedy sports restaurant or the Museum of Natural History and IMAX theatre.  Community activities included caroling at Life Care Center, attending the Madrigal Dinner and play productions at the high school, and volunteering for the Channel Six Auction.

In many ways the group served as an extended family, filling in for the natural support system of aunts, uncles, and grandparents that is missing in many Evergreen families.  Each parent and student was given a credit-card-size listing of names and phone numbers to carry, provided with the knowledge that he or she could always call upon one another whenever help was needed, whether it be an uncomfortable situation at a teen party, picking up a friend, or just needing someone to talk to.

"Kids knew they could call any of the parents and it wouldn't get back to their own parents," Buzz pointed out.

"A group discipline permeated the group," said Laura, reflecting on subjects such as driving with teen passengers.

Reportedly, the effects on families was profound.  One family even turned down a transfer because of the importance of the support group and what it was contributing to their lives.  In the first 5-year experiment, only one family dropped out, and participation averaged 70 percent on a monthly basis.

This was the first of several such support groups that formed based on the original concept.  The Sampsons were involved in three, one for each of their children. Twenty years later, Laura is in touch with most of the students in those three support groups, just as she continues to meet with second- and third-grade students she had at Lasley Elementary School in the early 1970s.

PBS - Channel Six

It was the calming effect  Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street had on her little ones that attracted Laura to Public Broadcasting (PBS).  Laura began volunteering as a go-getter for the Channel Six Auction in 1973 to raise money to support Rocky Mountain PBS.  Buzz joined the fun two years later, also as a go-getter. At its inception in 1956, Denver's Channel Six was the 18th station in the United States dedicated to public broadcasting.  Initially it was part of the Denver Public School System; now it is a community-licensed station with very little taxpayer funding and no state funding.  "It's what has enabled the station to be around when others have disappeared," Laura says.

Over the years, Laura has held positions on nearly every board affiliated with Rocky Mountain PBS including the National Friends of Public Broadcasting board.  She chaired the annual auction for three years.

She has worked on the Super Six School News Program since 1982.  The program is a two-minute news broadcast written and reported by fifth-grade students about what goes on at their schools.  She works with students at their respective schools to do dress rehearsals before they travel to the station to film.  Sixty schools across the state participate in this program; Laura has traveled as far away as Kansas to prepare students for the filming.

Buzz, always an electronics guru, ran the studio for the annual nine-day-long auction and has co-chaired the computer committee. In 2012 the auction will change to an online auction to avoid tying up airtime for such an extended period.  All along, he has written the computer programs to make it work.

Both Buzz and Laura have each dedicated 45 hours/week since 2000 on archiving the history (including oral histories) of Rocky Mountain PBS dating back to 1956. The project is funded by a grant in 2000 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  With the convenience of the Internet and Skype, the Sampsons are able to fulfill their commitments even while on vacation.

The Sampsons are recipients of numerous honors and awards from Rocky Mountain PBS for their dedication.  One award, presented in 2008, recognized Laura's contribution of more than 17,000 hours of volunteer time.

They are committed to organizing, instilling and sharing why people need to support PBS so it doesn't go away.

Source:  Interview with the Sampsons