ArtReach 7th Annual Dine & D'Art


The ArtReach 7th Annual Dine & D’Art proved once again that the passion of Denver artists, long-time supporters, volunteers, and donors are more important than a fancy, sophisticated venue. Creative artistry (or wizardry) converted an old, abandoned Walgreen’s on Colfax Avenue in Lakewood into a kaleidoscope of colorful artworks from some of Denver’s most creative painters, mixed-media artists, sculptors and ceramicists, to name a few.

Some 300 guests attended the event for ArtReach, a 41-year old non-profit that provides access to Denver art venues and exhibits with its free ticketing program and arts education through after-school programs and summer art camps.

Established  nearly a decade ago, the Dine & D’art event allows participants to review artworks during a cocktail hour, enjoy dinner and at evening end get called in an auction system to run or “dart” to select their selection.

This year more than 60 artists donated nearly 100 pieces with a minimum value of $400 for auction.

Emcee Lauren Whitney of CBS4 introduced guests to the proceedings while artists Lonnie Hanzon and Brad Ramsey worked throughout the night on live paintings on multiple canvases spread some 30 feet across the back of the room.
Executive Director Karla Johnson-Grimes thanked guests and urged them to be polite as they raced to claim and capture a favorite painting or customized wooden furniture piece, ceramic platters or mosaics.

ArtReach Board Member and Event Chair Jeff Horvorka of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts described the organization’s impact and Board Member Brad Ramsey provided first-hand stories of working with at-risk youth. Auctioneer Tracy Weise lead the live auction and coaxed multiple bids from long-time supporters.

This year’s sponsors included CBS4, 92.5/The Wolf , Mix 100.3, Kool 105, Jay’s Valet, Callahan & Associates, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles, The Denver Post, Frame de Art, The Wizard’s Chest, Liberty Waste Management, Table Mountain Inn, Scott and Shannon Pope, Cindy and David Hayes, Swingle, and Mesch Commercial Real Estate.

ArtReach’s unique ticketing program works with local schools and other organizations to access to the visual and performing arts and venues throughout Denver by providing free tickets to various cultural events including theatre, concerts and exhibits. ArtReach also funds and organizes after-school programs, art workshops, and summer camps to increase exposure to the arts for at-risk youth, developmentally disabled, seniors and other groups.

Hovorka announced the return this December of ArtReach’s Festival of Trees, a key signature event and popular citywide Denver attraction in the 1980s and 1990s. On hiatus since 2005, guests cheered their approval for the revival of the December holiday exhibit/fundraiser that auctions off decorative holiday wreaths and Christmas trees created by Denver artists. For more information about the organization visit


Jazz & Jeans


The Colorado Construction Institute may well turn into the best program for high school students who need direction. Listening to the student ambassadors, seeing their confident smiles and enthusiasm gave clear thumbs-ups for this amazing organization.

The CCI  essentially works an incubator for students who need a job, skills and direction in life. The students go out in the field and help build houses, structures and landscapes. What they gain is invaluable.

One student said, “I needed a job. But I discovered I am good at math and I love it.” A teenage girl said the work is so diverse she has honed her skills at taking directions and understanding plans, but, still, she let it be known, after her introduction to the work place at CCI she gained enough confidence to move on her dreams: “I’m going to be a fashion desiger.” Girls.

This fundraising celebration was their most important celebration as it was the first fundraising event for the organization.  Guests had the opportunity to meet the staff at CCI and current students and graduates, as well as hear how beneficial Colorado Construction Institute is to the students and graduates. Colorado Construction Institute is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 workforce development organization dedicated to providing disadvantaged youth between the ages of 16 – 24 with the tools to build their future.

Their program combines residential construction education along with life skills training to ensure that students will have both the knowledge and the capacity to excel in the construction industry.


Launching Our Youth

This year, Colorado Youth at Risk (CYAR) traded coffee and croissants for breakfast to host a corporate leaders luncheon. The transition to noon was well received, as evident by the happy noise level of people catching up before lunch and then reverently listening to the poignant messages after the meal.

“This is a fun-raiser,” shared former CYAR Executive Director Hollen Ferrendelli about the gathering, which drew 250 people to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Downtown Denver. Along with a celebration of key partners the event was a call for contributions. Enticing silent auction items made giving that much easier. Guests pondered signing up for an autographed Elway football, one among many intriguing options to bid on.

“We teach that resiliency is about recognizing challenges. It’s now our turn,” shared CYAR Board Chair Dr. Vance Bray as he talked honestly about the organization’s financial status. He emphasized CYAR current students remain its first priority.

He also acknowledged where the strength of the organization stems from: “Looking out, I am reminded of the true strength of this organization. It’s the mentors, board and staff. They are the heart of the organization.” He called upon people to give and then called up another speaker who spoke personally and poetically about CYAR.

“No one told me that this program would forever alter my life. No one told me it would be a catalyst in my life and that I would have a group that would pledge to stand by me through it all,” shared Jason St. Julien, a mentor and participant with CYAR.

St. Julien incorporated a quote by American author Anais Nin to further express his feelings: And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

“Make no mistake, CYAR broke me open in the most positive sense. I will be a life-long donor to its program and a champion of its cause. If you want your hand on the pulse of something greater than yourself, look to CYAR.”

KWGN Daybreak Anchor Tom Green, emcee for the event, commented that he’d been in broadcasting long enough to know not to follow such a moving address, so he quickly brought up the mayor. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock made a joke that his pastor just texted to tell him to invite St. Julien to stand him for him anytime.

The occasion also celebrated two entities key to CYAR’s success over the years. CYAR honored FirstBank as its Outstanding Corporate Partner and 16Ways Foundation as its Outstanding Community Partner.

Derrick Kelley, co-founder and president of 16Ways Foundation, turned and tipped his hat back at CYAR. “We have a great working relationship with them. They are a mentor for us,” said Kelley who flew in from Michigan for the event.

CYAR empowers teenage students to make life choices that positively impact their future through community-based mentoring and intensive training. CYAR aims to reduce the number of high school dropouts, match students with an adult mentor and provide students with a sense of the future and their place in that future.

For 21 years, CYAR has been successfully serving high school freshmen – an age many believe is too late to make an impact and too difficult to serve. Yet, the collection of stories, the undeniable high number of CYAR students who are graduating from high school, going on to college, and returning to contribute to their communities is as beautiful as the flowers – which were once tightly wound buds – of spring.

Reach for the Stars fundraiser for Rocky Mt. Children's Law Center


The month of April represents the start of spring and renewed hope for many children. April has also been designated as national Child Abuse Prevention Month by Congress since 1983. More than 400 guests of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center annual Reach for the Stars dinner gathered Friday, April 11 in support at the Westin Denver Downtown.

The Center is a non-profit law firm that provides much-needed services for abused and neglected kids so that they have hope for a successful future. Founded in 1981, the Center provides legal advocacy for victims of child abuse and neglect with the goal of securing a permanent, nurturing environment for every child made possible with support from social work professionals and attorneys.

In 2012, an estimated 1,640 children in the U.S. died from abuse and neglect, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services And that same year, children’s advocacy centers around the country served more than 286,000 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families. In 2013, this number was estimated to be more than 294,000, according to the National Children’s Alliance.

Thanks to generous support from individuals, small business, corporations and professional firms throughout Denver and Colorado, the Center serves more than 1,500 children each year through a wide variety of programs including support for guardianship, domestic violence and education programs, caregiver advocacy, community education, and a helpline. Staff attorneys serve as court-appointed guardians who represent and protect the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in open Colorado Department of Human Services cases.

Executive Director Stephanie Villafuerte, Esq. joined the Children’s Law Center four years ago as Executive Director succeeding Director and Founder Shari Shank, Esq. who started the organization more than 30 years ago.

Emcee Gloria Neal kept the program on track and auctioneer duties were performed by Debbie Stafford with live entertainment provided by members of the SOAR! Youth and Adult Choir. Executive Director Villafuerte and Board Chair Carla Dore thanked sponsors, volunteers and board leadership for their service and many contributions. This year’s board members include Stacy Carpenter, Kelly Condon, Randy Fons, John Hallin, Judy Laspada, Jane Michaels, Heather Purcell-Leja, Shellie Rosser. A special thanks went to volunteers and supporters Justin Breland, Katherine Hudson, Ernie Santella, Paul Trantow and Jenifer Woods.

Super Star sponsors this year included Noble Energy, Colleen Abdoulah Family Fund of the Denver Foundation, and Santella Productions while Shooting Star supporters were Holland & Hart LLP, Judy Laspada, Markus Williams Young & Zimmermann LLC.

The motto of the Center is to Prevent, Protect and Prepare. The Center works year-round to prevent abuse, to protect children who have suffered devastating maltreatment and to prepare children for a future that is abuse free — a life full of promise and hope. For more information visit or call 303-692-1165.

9th Annual PJ Day


Denver’s sub-zero night-time temperatures did not hinder the celebration at the Mayor’s Pajama Day in downtown Denver. In fact, nearly 400 guests attended the 9th annual PJ Day benefiting Denver’s Road Home held Thursday, February 6 at the Residence Inn Denver City Center, 1725 Champa St.

Denver’s Road Home Executive Director Bennie Milner described the goals and successes of the program before introducing Governor Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. The Mayor’s PJ party was launched about 10 years ago by Walter Isenberg, president and CEO of Sage Hospitality and Evan Makovsky, co-founder of NAI Shames Realty.

“The city cannot do this important work alone,” the Mayor said. “The more we stand together, the more powerful of an impact we can make on the community.”

The Mayor’s PJ Day continued a long tradition of guests wearing a wide variety of distinctive, colorful pajama outfits, fuzzy slippers, nightgowns and t-shirts featuring the PJ Day logo or representing supporting non-profits, businesses and organizations. This year, about 80 schools and 70 organizations supported the event by wearing pajamas to school and work.

Among guests on hand were Melanie Lewis Dickerson, Jon Luper and Deb Gray of DRH; Alexxa Gagner of the Denver Rescue Mission; Jim Guttau and Jolinda Cohavi from the Four Seasons; Lenee Koch of LEI Companies; Ramonna Robinson, Jim Licko and Jon Woods from GroundFloor Media; staff from Mile High Behavioral Healthcare; Denver metro area politicos including Arapahoe Commissioner Bill Holen, Aurora City Councilmembers Molly Markert and Debi Hunter Holen, Englewood Mayor Randy Penn and others.

Established in 2005, Denver’s Road Home (DRH) was launched by the Denver Commission to End Homelessness and Denver Human Services with the mission to end homelessness through a variety of programs and partnerships with churches, foundations, non-profits, businesses, government agencies, individuals, and other institutions.

The PJ Party featured a martini luge sponsored by Jim Beam with hors doeuvres, appetizers, cupcakes, and other treats provided by Snooze, the Rialto Café, Second Home Kitchen + Bar and The Corner Office.

Jazz musician Nelson Rangell and his band entertained guests well into the evening as patrons waited for photos at the Black Diamond photo booth or tailor-made gifts produced by the 3D Printing Store.

According to figures from Denver’s Road Home:
An estimated 64% of Denver’s homeless are people in families with children;
One-third of the homeless are working;
The most reported reasons for homelessness in Denver are loss of a job, housing costs and a breakup of a family.

For more information regarding this annual event visit To volunteer, donate or support homeless programs and initiatives contact Denver’s Road Home at 720-944-2508 or visit

Urban Scholars Presents a Class Act

The Denver Urban Scholars Class Act – Auction and Dinner Event, held on Saturday, November 9th at the Ritz-Carlton in Denver was indeed a “class” act, an wonderful evening of inspiration, education, food, fun and, of course, an outstanding auction to support the Denver Urban Scholars mentoring programs.

About Denver Urban Scholars

Denver Urban Scholars is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping metro Denver students with the greatest need graduate high school and enter higher education with a meaningful life plan for success. The students served by Denver Urban Scholars are those who have potential, but are at risk of dropping out or getting lost in the current system. A significant commitment is required from each student in their programs, and in return, students who choose to be a part of their programs are empowered and inspired to succeed through mentoring, case management, academic support and financial assistance.

Over 400 guests enjoyed a cocktail reception and browsed a wide variety of silent auction selections.  Following the close of the silent auction, guests retired to the ballroom where the dinner program began.  Mistress of Ceremonies, Kyle Dyer, 9News Anchor, welcomed guests and made brief remarks.   Then, the Board of Directors helped Kyle Dyer demonstrate how the ‘heads and tails’ game works, so that guests would be prepared to play this game at the end of the evening.

Following dinner, Kyle Dyer thanked the sponsors of the evening, and then awards were presented to honorees Tom Kimball and John Craig.   The live auction with the Fitsum Family, a Scholars Auction and the Heads and Tails Game further raised funds to support the Mission of the Denver Urban Scholars:  Denver Urban Scholars facilitates academic achievement and positive social development among underserved urban youth, empowering them to fully engage in and contribute to our community. Our holistic approach addresses the unique and complex needs of disadvantaged youth by coordinating teams of student, family, mentor and school to ensure the success of our youth.

Roaring '20s Gala Colorado Youth at Risk


The Roaring ’20s was an appropriate theme for the Colorado Youth at Risk 20th Anniversary celebration at the Glendale Events Center, Saturday, November 2. Some 300 guests attended the event dressed as 1920s-era flappers, Gibson girls with feather boas and Panama and boater hats and colorful postwar three-piece suits.

Emcee Denise Plante described the work of the organization and introduced several CYAR successful alumni and a video of student alumni including Kennisha Ayers, Sanai Fennel, Bradley James, Samantha Perez-Leftwich, Chris Smith, Kassandra Perez, Theron Harrison and others.

Board Chair Tarek Saad described the continuing mission of the organization and its success against critics who said it couldn’t be done. CYAR staff members Caroline Meyers and Elizabeth Same, Troy Bowman, Lori Dougherty, Sarah McGill, and various other interns and volunteers ensured a festive event.

Exuberant auctioneer Jim Berz of Wow Events managed the live auction with auction cards flying throughout the night. Meanwhile, Executive Director Mary Hanewell and Chair Tarek Saad mingled with the crowd. Erin and Dan Kobler were dressed to the nines along with board members Julie Ziemer, Tanja Smith and Erin Autrey Neren. Upbeat jazz favorites were performed by Kim Dawson and her quartet.

A lot happened in Denver in 1993: Labor leader Cesar Chavez passed away; Pope John Paul II visited for World Youth Day; the Rockies became the 27th Major League baseball team; and the October opening of the Denver International Airport was delayed after  baggage system problems. Also, that year the so-called Summer of Violence gave rise to solutions for rescuing teens stuck in a cycle of violence in poor economic and family circumstances and lack of educational opportunities and advancement.

Also in 1993 Theron Harrison was born. A lanky young man with a quick smile, Harrison is perhaps best known as one of Denver’s finest high school debaters. As teens at Manual High, he and sister Teague competed in national debating championships in New York, not once but twice–in 2011 and 2012. Theron, now 20, represents CYARs success over the past two decades and has become a symbol of what is possible with the right mentors and opportunities.

Reaching at-risk or troubled teens from struggling unhealthy or impoverished environments presents a challenge for human service organizations and stay-in-school non-profits dedicated to youth education and mentoring.  CYAR’s strategy is fourfold and includes community and one-on-one training, a mountain retreat, high ropes course and a year-long series of workshops with mentors.

After 20 years, Colorado Youth at Risk (CYAR) may have found the secret of success for reaching teens and continues to advocate for educational opportunities. For more information visit: or call 623-9140.

Fitness Festival inspires healthy living and family fun

Greenwood Village Mayor Rakowsky, Kristina Davidson and Jay Davidson

Greenwood Village Mayor Rakowsky with First American State Bank Founders Kristina and Jay Davidson

To gain momentum for the upcoming 13th Annual Fitness Festival, local business leaders and community supporters gathered together this week to honor the generous donations and sponsorships that will make the Fitness Festival possible for another year. This pre-party patron celebration was held at the First American State Bank in Greenwood Village and organized by founders Jay and Kristina Davidson – along with their staff, colleagues, sponsors and board members.

Janice McNally, Wendy DeBell, Lisa Reddel

Janice McNally, Wendy DeBell, Lisa Reddel

The evening featured wine & hors d’oeuvres, live music and silent auction – along with the unveiling of this year’s t-shirt design for the race, designed by local students.

Brought to you by First American State Bank, the 13th Annual Fitness Festival will be held on September 7th, 2013 and features a 5K run/walk as well as a 1K fitness run. The event promotes wellness and benefits the Community Asset Project – a non-proft organization that focuses on the entire well-being of a child. The goal of the Community Asset Project is to help youths grow into happy, healthy, contributing members of society.

Through the generous support from the sponsors of the race, the Community Asset Project is able to use proven, preventative measures to help youths as they navigate the path to adulthood. Kristina Davidson, Fitness Festival founder, partnered with the Community Asset Project in 1990 to create the very first Fitness Festival. Davidson says, “A healthy lifestyle is beneficial to the body and the soul, and prepares the kids to maximize their skills, academic potential and a future productive life in our community.”

2013 Grand Marshalls Josh Ulitsky, Kersten Mullan, Tanya Bond and Monte Thelen

2013 Grand Marshals Josh Ulitsky, Kersten Mullan, Tanya Bond and Monte Thelen

This year’s Festival will honor six grand marshals representing the six high schools in the Cherry Creek School District including Monte Thelen, Mike Brookhart,Tanya Bond, Josh Ulitzky, Becky Grasser and Kersten Mullan. Over 53,000 students and their families are expected to attend this year’s Fitness Festival which includes the race, live entertainment, local fare, prizes and more.

To date, the Fitness Festival has raised nearly $900,000 for the Community Asset Project, enriching the lives of thousands of students in the Cherry Creek School District. For more information, visit