Aurora Mental Health Center's 10th Annual Student Art Contest


Hundreds attended the Aurora Mental Health Center’s 10th Annual “Living Life to to the Fullest” Student Art Contest and Show October 19 at the Crowne Plaza/Denver Airport. More than 20 awards were presented to students and teachers for their best artworks and contributions to students in the Aurora metro school district. Citywide Banks was the Awards Sponsor.

1st Place Winners
K-3     Lane Wegher, Drawing Makes Me Happy
4-6      Brynley Lane, Scout gives me Joy!
7-8     Celine Choi, The Journey of My Art
9-12     Vivienne Blanco, Unlocked

2nd Place Winners
K-3     Intellia Bowen, Mountain
4-6     Annie Nuetzel, Sunset Duet
7-8     Annabelle Smith-Daigle, The Future, Imperfect
9-12   Emma Brown, Ganz AIlein

Photography Winners
1st     Gerardo Aguilar, Gold Sky, 11th Grade, Aurora Central High
2nd     Christian Castaneda, Rose of Hope, 12th Grade, Aurora Central High

Holiday Card Selection
Olivia Nuetzel, Snowy Sky, 3rd Grade, High Plains Elementary

Teacher Recognitions
Mrs. Adams Eaglecrest High School
Mrs. Cahn Challenge School
Ms. Day Indian Ridge Elementary
Ms. Simpkins Strasburg Elementary
Ms. Abbott Aurora Central High School

Director’s Choice Award Winners
Ivy Hankins, Happiness is a Work of Art! 3rd High Plains Elementary  4-6
Mary Harris, Hello. It’s I, it’s me Mary 5th Independence Elementary  7-8
Gabrielle Driggs, The Joy of my life 7th Fox Ridge Middle School  9-12
Helen Kim, Rainy Days 10th Cherokee Trail High School

K-3     Anna Mugongo, JOY 11th Aurora Central High School


MS on the Move Luncheon


Not even Multiple Sclorsis can stop me…

The Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National MS Society hosted an exceptional luncheon at the Westin Downtown hotel on Thursday, September 15, 2016.

The annual event was presented by EKS&H with the goal to raise awareness and funds in order to provide services and support for the 100,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming affected by multiple sclerosis.

Guest speaker Connie Carpenter-Phinney, winner of the first ever women’s Olympic cycling road race in Summer 1984, shares her inspirational story of triumph as an Olympic athlete and national champion.  Wife of world renown cycling champion Davis Phinney and mother of two, she understands first-hand the adversity of chronic illnesses and challenges of caregiving and renewed hope.  She is an active board member of the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s in Boulder. 

Mary Rhinehart, CEO of Johns-Manville, was recognized with the 2016 MS Spirit Award by Novartis. 

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or donor of the annual MS on the Move Luncheon, please contact Adrienne Torres, at or by phone 303-698-5446 or Jamie Froyd at   

12th Annual Aurora Mental Health Center Spring Luncheon


Movers and shakers from throughout the Aurora community gathered at the Crown Plaza Airport Convention Center for the 12th Annual“Living Life to the Fullest” Spring Benefit Luncheon held Thursday, May 5, 2016, to benefit the Aurora Mental Health Center.

Welcome & Introductions were made by AUMHC board member and Event Committee Chair Rachel Nuñez with emcee Charles Packard, Executive Producer of the Aurora Fox Theater, thanking sponsors for their support of the AUMHC PATH program for the homeless.

AUMHC CEO & Executive Director Randy Stith, Ph.D. described the importance of the of AUMHC’s PATH program that helps homeless adults and families with Drop-In emergency need items and services and the Street Outreach Team that seeks to identify the homeless walking the streets who may need help.

In addition to serving as Presenting Sponsor, Citywide Banks this year matched each dollar raised at the luncheon to boost donations at the spring event. This year’s Gold Sponsors were Metro Community Provider Networks, EON, WAVE Audio Visual and the Silver Sponsor was the Asian Pacific Development Center.

The Capitol Steps performers entertained the crowd with a satirical and comical view of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections and the various candidates and politicians including President Obama, and VP Joe Biden, past President George W. Bush, and, of course, the current and past list of presidential contenders including over-the-top impressions of front-runners Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and visits from Sarah Palin and past Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The AUMHC continues to grow and expand to serve Aurora’s burgeoning population. In March, Mayor Steve Hogan joined with the Aurora Vistas Foundation to present more than $22,000 in grant money to support AUMHC children’s mental health programs. These funds support some 20 programs such as summer camp, a ski program, new playroom, grandparents groups, refugee children and a camping trip.

The Aurora Vistas Foundation raise most of their funding through its annual Mayor’s Cup Classic Golf Tournament attended by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and usually by the other mayors throughout the Denver metro region. This year the Golf Classic will be held on Monday, August 22, at Murphy Creek Golf Course in Aurora. For more information, volunteer, donate or to register for this fun-filled event on the links, please contact Debbie Stafford at 303-617-2300 or email her directly at

For more information or to make a donation to the Aurora Mental Health Center (AUMHC) please call 303-617-2300 or visit:




Smart-Girl Annual Luncheon


“Change the world by being yourself…” That’s one of the key messages for Smart-Girls, a non-profit program that teaches leadership and self-awareness for pre-teen and teen girls. This year’s Smart-Girl annual luncheon was held at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center, Friday, April 22, with more than 250 guests attending.

Founded in 1998, SmartGirl is a nonprofit organization that empowers pre-teen and teen girls to make smart choices. Smart-Girl is a program of the AllHealth Network, formerly called the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network.

With school bullying in the classroom and online a problem for youngsters, the Smart-Girl organization was founded to help young people “make smart choices and become confident, capable, self-reliant young women.”

The organization helps shield teens against various types of harrasment, including verbal and emotional bullying. According to data from Family First Aid, about 30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, either as a bully or as a victim of teenage bullying. Generally speaking, female students are significantly more likely than male students to be made fun of, called names or insulted in school or online. And more than 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it very easy for cyber bullying to occur.

The Smart-Girl program measurably enhances critical thinking skills, social-emotional intelligence, optimism and resilience in adolescents. Through games, art, discussions, projects and interactive exercises, adolescents learn how to discover, strive for and reach their highest potential.

Luncheon Committee Chairs Rosalina Diecidue and Deborah Donovan introduced guests to AllHealth Network CEO Joan DiMaria who thanked guests and donors for their continued support.

Keynote Speaker Meredith Walker, a close friend of comedian/actress Amy Poehler, entertained guests with personal stories, anecdotes of her own teenage years, and a message to parents and their teen children to embrace their own unique personalities and interests.

“When a young person feels empowered with the strength to be themselves,” Walker said, “they will experience a more fulfilling and rewarding life, establish their own identity, build courage and reach their full potential.”

As a Co-Founder and Executive Director of Amy Poehler’s Smart-Girls, Walker leads workshops, service days, and volunteer teams and promotes the mission year-round. Smart-Girl Past Board Chair Shawn Turner was recognized for his leadership, dedication, enthusiasm and long-term commitment. Turner, a partner in Holland & Knight’s Denver office, currently serves as Vice President of the AllHealth Network Board.

Among key sponsors this year were: Citywide Banks, Holland & Knight, Teal Pond Foundation, Alma Lantz, the Diecidue Family Foundation, Moms Fight Back, and Chuck and Debra McKenney.

For more information visit



Rise Up Theme Propels RMCP's Hope Matinee


More than just a luncheon with talented entertainers and Gov. John Hickenlooper in attendance, Hope Matinee’s “Rise Up” theme was impactful. Even while addressing mental illness and substance abuse issues, the event’s mood remained positive, with messages such as gratitude, empathy, understanding and giving back. While organizers appreciated needed donations, they also asked that important messages continue beyond the event: We can openly talk about mental illness. It’s OK to ask for help. And, most importantly, there are resources are available—as close as a phone call to one of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners’ hotlines.

CEO Bev Marquez greets Gov. John Hickenlooper

CEO Bev Marquez greets Gov. John Hickenlooper

On Thursday, April 21, more than 200 supporters of RMCP met at Mile High Station for the lunchtime fundraiser. After a short time to greet old friends, the group sat down to a lunch entrées provided by 240 Union, with desserts from Harvest Moon Bakery. Kim Christiansen, 9News anchor/reporter was emcee for the lunchtime program that featured Gov. John Hickenlooper honored with the Hope in Crisis Award for his efforts to unite mental health organizations statewide. CEO Bev Marquez and RMCP’s Tammy Cunningham made the presentation. In a short talk, Hickenlooper emphasized how important it is for mental health services to be accessible for patients at medical health clinics.

School of Breaking performers

School of Breaking performers

A riveting live-dance performance by students at School of Breaking was choreographed to complement audio that represented one of the thousands of calls placed at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (RMCP is the central Colorado call center for state area codes that access this lifeline). Vocalist Sophia Rodriguez was featured as soloist. The performance was followed by a real-life caller who talked in detail about her positive experience using the suicide-prevention line. RMCP’s event coordinator Tammy Cunningham, along with Rikki Allen, were honored for their hard work, as was Kim Christiansen. Marquez displayed one of three specially made Rise Up bracelets available for silent-auction bid, and guests were encouraged to contribute to the Rise Up art piece. The poster was a work-in-progress throughout the event, made up of words and drawings of how people were able to rise up in their own life.

RMCP is a statewide, 24/7, year-round community-based system of crisis intervention services from which people experience mental health and/or substance abuse crises can be assessed, safely and effectively stabilized, and efficiently linked to appropriate follow up care and services. The nonprofit offers skilled, hope-filled care to individuals and families in crisis. RMCP believes that whether it is the first or one of many experiences, if treated in an atmosphere of respect and compassion, crisis can be a unique opportunity for individuals and families to connect to life-changing treatment, support and education.

Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners operates the Colorado Crisis Services Crisis Line and Support Line, provides an extensive Program Services Directory, and offers LiveConnect Services; among other services that include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Follow-Up Services. Most people who call Lifeline’s numbers 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK from Colorado area codes have their calls answered here.

For more information, please visit

Little Hearts Luncheon Is A Big Success For CHC Heart Institute


Put kids, dogs and firefighters in the same place, and you’re guaranteed to experience nonstop cuteness and charm. At Little Hearts Luncheon & Fashion Show, it’s augmented even further when you know the kids are past heart patients, the dogs are part of the Children’s Hospital Colorado pet-therapy program, firefighters remain our heroes—and because funds raised from the luncheon go to the Children’s Hospital Colorado Heart Institute. No wonder the event has continued to grow in its 31 years of existence. This year Little Hearts sparkled once again on Friday, April 15, with more than 400 guests who enjoyed a delightful weekday respite at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum.

Representing sponsor First American State Bank in style

Representing sponsor First American State Bank in style

The event began with a busy silent auction and reception, and music provided by singer-keyboardist Charlotte Sass. Kids had the added bonus of meeting beautiful Denver Broncos mascot, Thunder, just outside the museum’s entrance. In a convivial atmosphere, doctors, former patients and families, sponsors and supporters all mingled together with hugs and laughter. As guests enjoyed a tasty lunch provided by Biscuits & Berries, emcee Kim Christiansen took the stage to preside over the afternoon program. Sara Mark, D.V.M., was completely surprised as the recipient of the inaugural Maxwell Doud Paws of Praise Award (Maxwell is a lovable Bernese Mountain service dog); and for his wellness-program efforts, CHC pediatric cardiologist Jeff Darst, M.D., was honored with this year’s Fern Primack Heart Who Cares Award. Event chair Lyn Schaffer recognized sponsors and volunteers for their assistance and support, as well as Mark Neff, who underwent heart surgery at CHC 60 years ago and traveled from Texas to attend this event.

Izabella strikes a pose in her pretty spring dress.

Izabella strikes a pose in her pretty spring dress.

The accompanying fashion show, with apparel provided by Dillard’s, featured CHC pediatric heart patients escorted by South Metro Fire Rescue and Denver Fire firefighters, plus well-known personalities such as Colorado’s former First Lady Frances Owens and society editor-reporter Joanne Davidson, as well as doctors and family members. Several were also accompanied by adorable dogs from the CHC Prescription Pet Program. As models hit the runway, Christiansen told the story of each one, including her son Tanner as well as that of her sister Keri. Camera phones were required equipment as proud family members and friends recorded their favorite models posing, dancing or just happily waving to guests from the runway.

Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Heart Institute is ranked among the top 20 pediatric hospitals in the nation for heart care and surgery by U.S. News & World Report. It is one of only eight stand-alone pediatric research centers in the nation and one of the fastest-growing pediatric cardiac programs in the country. Its doctors, surgeons and nurses have experience diagnosing and treating all types of heart disease. Because of this expertise, CHC Heart Institute offers a consistent care team for patients, from the developmental years into early adulthood. Special services are offered, such as the Welcome Program, to help families manage their non-medical needs. A multidisciplinary care team ensures all of the services each child may need are in one place. Combining the resources of some of the world’s most qualified and experienced heart specialists, every patient receives a more complete level of care. For more information, please visit: .

Darby Kelly with Prescription Pet Program participant, Cormac

Darby Kelly with Prescription Pet Program participant, Cormac

The Prescription Pet Program (the first in the nation) is a dog-assisted therapy and visitation initiative that began in 1984 as a cooperative effort of Children’s Colorado and the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society (DAVMS). As part of the program, specially-trained volunteer dog owners take their dogs on rounds at Children’s Colorado. All Prescription Pet dogs have passed a vigorous screening and have been approved by veterinarians who volunteer their time. To learn more, please visit: .

Tyrone Braxton Inspires at Stout Street Foundation's Fall Luncheon


With “Inspire” as its event theme, expectations for Stout Street Foundation’s fall luncheon speakers had to be elevated. But wow, did everyone on stage deliver! Between keynote speaker Tyrone Braxton and Sara, the SSF client whose story was chronicled on a riveting video, guests were hanging onto every word…and most certainly left the event motivated to better their own life.

Erica Porter (left) and former Colorado First Lady Frances Owens

Erica Porter (left) and former Colorado First Lady Frances Owens

On Friday, Oct. 30, around 250 guests made their way to The Denver Athletic Club for a delicious, served lunch, along with enticing silent and live auctions, and a slew of positive messages to take with them. As always, the event stayed true to its 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. timeline, while still giving guests time to chat and catch up, keep up with silent auction bids and enjoy their food. Spotted in the crowd were former Bronco great Mike Harden, plus two former Colorado First Ladies: Frances Owens and Jeannie Ritter.

Joe Bevilacqua, emcee and auctioneer extraordinaire

Joe Bevilacqua, emcee and auctioneer extraordinaire

Joe Bevilacqua, Clear Channel Entertainment’s FM program director, emceed the afternoon’s program and also served as auctioneer for coveted big-ticket items. Nicholas Petrucelli, VP of programs, welcomed the crowd and talked about the impact of Stout Street’s services. Braxton took the stage next and was able to talk about his success as a Denver Bronco and his recovery from addiction—he is completing certification as a clinical social worker while working with clients at the Mental Health Center of Denver. Braxton showed his support to the services and programs of SSF, bypassing a Bronco Alumni event in favor of speaking at this luncheon.

Sara’s story was detailed in a video presentation, made even more special when she appeared on stage for a few words. President and CEO Christopher Conway continued with the “Inspire” theme, and urged guests to take their experience and be an advocate for addiction recovery—even if only for the rest of the day. Teri Smith took time to thank sponsors, staff and supporters for their efforts before lucky winners won or out-bid others for terrific prizes.

TriCuzz Productions' three cousins (l to r): Nancy Alterman, Cheryl Hiltzik and Mitzi Townshend were honored on stage.

TriCuzz Productions’ three cousins (l to r): Nancy Alterman, Cheryl Hiltzik and Mitzi Townshend were honored on stage.

Stout Street Foundation’s mission is to provide the necessary services and support in a totally structured, therapeutic community environment to assist addicts and alcoholics to help themselves in rehabilitation, recovery and transition in returning to society as productive and responsible citizens.

SSF operates as a not-for-profit, self-sufficient organization without primary economic dependence on municipal, state or federal funding. Within its structured environment, the organization provides food, lodging, and specific programs and treatment for its residents. For more information on long-term residential treatment, 28-day residential treatment and out-patient assistance, please visit:, or call 303-321-2533.

MS on the Move Luncheon


Rebekah Gregory is an honest-to-goodness inspiration.

It’s not everyday one has the opportunity to listen to a survivor’s story. Or, to hear about their horrendous ordeal told with humor and compassion. At the National Multiple Sclerosis On The Move luncheon, Rebekah Gregory’s horrifying experience at one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history, changed her life forever.

She walked with poise to the podium in a beautiful black lace overlay dress starkly revealing ‘Felicia,’ her prosthetic left leg. Her gait was so perfect one assumed the visible mechanical apparatus was part of the outfit.

Then Rebekah Gregory began to recall the day that is still too vivid in her mind. She was watching the 2013 Boston Marathon, struggling to keep her six year son occupied as the race dragged on for him. Her runner was close to the finish line so she suggested he sit on her feet and play with pebbles on the ground, assuring him it was almost over. Out of boredom, he sat on her feet. Next thing, one week later, Rebekah Gregory awoke in a Boston hospital. Her left leg was mangled. Thankfully her son was treated for minor cuts and lacerations and released. He was alive and well. That was enough to get her through the next two years.

Gregory gave an enlivened talk that moved the audience, not to tears but laughter. She is a natural at this. Her story is terrible but, like she said, “If you’re given lemons, well, heck, you don’t even have to make lemonade if you don’t like it. You can make a lemon meringue pie.”

And that is what Gregory has done. She hated running. Now she is running in a marathon later this year. She hates strapping on Felicia some days but, she wants to get up and get on with her day so, she puts Felicia on and gets going.

Rebekah Gregory was a ray of sunshine and source of strength to the people of the audience who were either fighting the effects of MS or searching for a cure.

Michael King was awarded the MS Spirit Award presented by Novartis. He said he is looking forward to the day he no longer needs to ride his bike for MS, because, when that day comes, he smiled, there will be a cure for the debilitating disease, multiple sclerosis.

This year’s theme, MS on the Move luncheon was organized to raise awareness and funds to provide services and support for the 100,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming affected by multiple sclerosis.

Become a supporter of this important organization by visiting,; or call 1-800-FIGHT-MS (344-4867). The chapter office is located at 900 S. Broadway, Suite 250, Denver.

Aurora Vistas Annual Mayor's Cup Golf Tournament


The Aurora Vistas 22nd Annual Mayor’s Cup Golf Tournament received a capacity crowd this year in support of mental health services for children and families.

The “Fore Our Kids” Mayor’s Cup Golf Challenge was held Monday, August 17th on a spectacular sunny Colorado day along the rolling slopes of Aurora’s Murphy Creek Golf Course.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, Arvada Mayor Marc Williams, and Sheridan Mayor Dallas Hall participated in the 18-hole event with some 120 philanthropic golfers. The event began around sunrise with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast and a 7:30 a.m. shotgun start.

Event organizer Debbie Stafford — with help from Tawney Bass, Troy Bowman, Tim Huffman and Golf Chair Terry Todd — coordinated the presentation of several golfing awards including men’s and women’s longest drive, longest putt, and closest to the pin. The challenging 18-hole course kept the event competitive with certificates and prize drawings awarded after a luncheon of grilled chicken breasts and hamburgers.

Aurora Mental Health Center staffers Cindy Bohl and Heather Dolan were on hand to help coordinate planning and media coverage. Presenting Sponsor Citywide Banks were represented by Senior VP Stephan Ghadaifchian and VP Debra Neeley.

The Aurora Vistas Foundation raises awareness and funds to support Aurora Mental Health Center’s programs for children and their families. Aurora Vistas President Sandy Sweeney and Aurora Mental Health Center Executive Director Dr. Randy Stith thanked generous supporters for their long years of sponsorship and in-kind donations that make this annual end of summer event possible.

Aurora Vistas seeks community support throughout the year to make a difference in the lives of Aurora’s children. Among the several ways to help support the organization is by individual and in-kind individual donations of products and services, applying to serve as an Auxiliary, Committee or Board member, or by providing sponsorship for one of the organization’s annual events.

For more information on helping out the organization please visit or call 303-617-2361.


Pikes Peak United Way 2015 Community Celebration Luncheon


The Pikes Peak United Way in Colorado Springs held its Community Celebration Luncheon June 4 at the Broadmoor Hotel International Center to honor its supporters. More than 650 attended the event to listen to keynote speaker Rich Harwood, president and founder of the Maryland-based Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, and to officially recognize key volunteers, individual and corporate donors from throughout the Colorado Springs metro region.

KKTV/Channel 11 anchors Dianne Derby and Don Ward emceed the event with presentations made by Pikes Peak Board Chair Kent Fortune followed by organizational program updates by PPUW President/CEO Jason Wood who thanked presenting sponsors Federal Express and U.S. Bank. As part of its mission in Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak United Way serves more than 35 partner agencies. This year the PPUW annual community campaign raised $5.7 million.

Keynote speaker Richard Harwood enthusiastically advocated for a more entrepreneurial attitude in dealing with community challenges. He urged leaders, politicos and guests to focus on three things including engaging people around shared aspirations, learning to build things together, and “paying close attention to stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and our communities.”

This year’s award winners are:

• Volunteers of the Year: Dr. Lance Bolton, Jerry Forte, Tom Neppl, Jan Weiland
• Spirit of Caring Award- Small Company: Nor’wood
• Spirit of Caring Award- Medium Company: Peoples Bank
• Spirit of Caring Award- Large Company: USAA
• Leaders in Collaboration Award: Sarah Tracy, Bob Hughes

Award-winning actress and community advocate Sally Hybl received the S. Jerrard Smith Award which honors individuals whose work changes the lives of many and improves the quality of life in the community. Last year’s recipient of the Smith Award–Pam Shockley, Chancellor at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs–introduced Hybl who thanked her colleagues, guests and family for their support. Hybl is a lifelong Colorado Springs resident and President of the Cheyenne Mountain School District’s Tradition of Excellence Foundation.

Founded in 1922, Pikes Peak United Way is dedicated to addressing the underlying causes of problems and creating lasting change throughout El Paso and Teller counties. Through its Successful Kids, Strong Families, Tools for Living and Community Wellness programs PPUW targets the most immediate and critical problems to provide support in lasting and meaningful ways that benefit the Colorado Springs community.

For more information visit:



23rd Annual Bayaud Enterprises Luncheon


Overcoming disabilities and life’s challenges was the theme of Bayaud Enterprises’ 23rd Annual MacDonald Family Tribute Luncheon held Wed, May 6 at the Sheraton Downtown with a packed ballroom of more than 325 guests. The keynote speaker was Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen who kept guests chuckling and inspired for easily more than an hour followed with a standing ovation.

The event theme–“Hope, Opportunity and Choice”–flowed throughout the afternoon and reflected the mission of Bayaud Enterprises, a 46-year-old Denver non-profit dedicated to finding work for people with disabilities and other barriers to meaningful work.

Bayaud Executive Director David Henninger thanked guests and sponsors including premiere or Sponsors of Hope: Pat and Janet Wiesner; Sponsors of Opportunity: Ernst and Young, Graham and Cathy Hollis, KeyBank, Rose Pediatrics, Tom and Allison Sandler, and Sheridan Ross PC.

Henninger then introduced and praised the six award winners of the 2015 Tribute Awards in four categories. Every spring Bayaud recognizes individuals and companies who support Bayaud throughout the year.

Donald G. MacDonald Volunteers of the Year: James Boyce and Lauren Kaptain

Van Bruce MacDonald Employee of the Year: Lonnie Schwindt and Susan Williams Robinson

Employer of the Year: Sage Hospitality (accepted by Kathleen Bates, Erica Endorf and Heather Martin)

Later after lunch, 9News Anchor Mark Koebrich introduced six-time Olympic swimming champion Van Dyken-Rouen best known for winning four Olympic medals in Atlanta in 1996 and two in Sydney, Australia in 2000.

Van Dyken-Rouen described her career path as a young awkward asthmatic teen to the agony of missing her first potential Olympics by one-thousandth of a second. She also recounted the fateful day two summers ago in 2014 when she severed her spine in an all-terrain vehicle accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. But the smiling and effervescent Olympian insists to her doctors and the public that she expects to walk again. In fact, the wheelchair-bound champion said she expects to be fitted with leg braces and is pursuing a dedicated physical regimen that may make that a reality soon.

Her defiant mantra–“Who do you think you are to tell me what I can or can’t do?”–has become a popular refrain for her many appearances around the country and one that has motivated her since childhood.

Van Dyken-Rouen’s relentless optimism with a foundation of hard work and persistence illustrates the mission of Bayaud’s own goals of promoting economic self-sufficiency, independence, personal health and well-being, and improved quality of life for individuals with disabilities, families experiencing homelessness, and the community.

Created in 1969, Bayaud has provided job training, employment services and vocational support to more than 7,000 people with mental, emotional and physical disabilities over the years. With its current work force of 200 and $7.4 million operating budget, Bayaud has been able to expand its reach to include homeless and low-income individuals and families.

For more information visit




Aurora Mental Health Center's 11th Annual Spring Luncheon


The Aurora Mental Health Center’s 11th Annual Spring Benefit Luncheon, Living Life to the Fullest, was held at Friday, May 1 at the Radisson Hotel in Aurora. For some 40 years AUMHC’s team of psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, therapists, social workers, and peer advisors have worked to provide individual, group, and family counseling, as well as consultation and educational support.

More than 350 packed the ballroom to celebrate the organization and to raise funds for Aurora Youth Options (AYO), AUMH’s youth service and mentoring program that was singled out by Esquire Magazine as one of the Denver metro region’s 7 most successful mentoring programs and among the top 50 in the nation.

Board Member and Event Chair Rachel Nuñez took to the podium to describe how AYO works with middle and high school-aged at-risk youth and their families to navigate, connect and provide positive, individualized resources to help them succeed. The key to the program, she said, was recovery, prevention and wellness.

Emcee Charles Packard, Executive Producer for Aurora Fox Theatre, thanked donors, guests and acknowledged local city and county leadership before introducing Dr. Randy Stith, CEO & Executive Director. Stith reviewed the founding of the organization by a group of committed volunteers in the late 1960s who officially launched AUMHC in 1975.

Among those attending this year’s luncheon were: From the office of Congressman Mike Coffman Aurora Ogg, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, Aurora City Council Members: Barbara Cleland, Brad Pierce, Molly Markert, Marsha Berzins, Debi Hunter Holen, Sally Mounier, Aurora Municipal Court Chief Judge Richard Weinburg, Aurora Municipal Court Adminstrator Zelda DeBoyes, Aurora City Manager Skip Noe, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz, Aurora Fire Chief Michael Garcia, Arapahoe County Commissioners: Nancy Sharpe, Bill Holen, Nancy Jackson, Nancy Doty, and Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher

Founded in 2009, Aurora Youth Options Mentor Program brings caring adults together with a young person in need of mentoring and coaching, Homework Help and Tutoring creates a safe and open environment where youth interact with adult and peer tutors to get the assistance they need.

The AUMHC’s programs serve more than 17,000 people annually through 12 counseling centers, 8 residential facilities, in public schools, county human services departments and other locations. The Aurora Mental Health Center’s next fundraiser will be the Mayor’s Cup Golf Classic hosted by the Aurora Vistas Foundation on August 17. To donate or learn more visit:

2015 Little Hearts Luncheon and Fashion Show


This year’s paparazzi arrived in full force and quickly gathered along the makeshift catwalk set up at Wings Over the Rockies museum. Guests scrambled with cameras, tablets, smartphones, and digicams to capture more than two dozen models featured at the Little Hearts Luncheon and Fashion Show. Proud parents, families, physicians and guests celebrated successful outcomes for the young heart patients celebrating their new lives ahead. And, thanks to passionate event organizer and hostess Lyn Schaffer, this year marked the 30th anniversary of this fun-filled event which benefits Children’s Hospital Colorado Heart Institute–one of the nation’s premier facilities for specialized cardiac surgeries.

More than 300 attended the Friday, April 10 party at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver’s Lowry neighborhood. Lyn and her husband, Dr. Michael Schaffer, CHC Foundation staff, and a team of dedicated volunteers, oversee the luncheon and kids fashion show featuring 30 young heart patients who are happily thriving thanks to surgeons, nurses and healthcare professionals.

Lyn Schaffer thanked the guests for their support and introduced emcee, 9News anchor Kim Christiansen, who provided running commentary for the models/patients ranging in age from 6-year-olds to older teens.

Fashions were provided by Dillard’s with hairstyles and makeup overseen by Irene Zimmer and her team at 3rd Ave Studio and partners at Simply Moore. The models were accompanied by friends, families, volunteers, physicians, firefighters from South Metro Fire Rescue, and four-legged friends from CHC’s Prescription Pets Program, which includes dog-assisted therapy and pet visitation services. Dr. Michael Schaffer, a CHC pediatric cardiologist, awarded Dr. Max Mitchell the Heart Who Cares Award.

Special thanks went to Presenting Sponsors Anna and John J. Sie Foundation; Clothing Sponsor: Joyce F. Daily, Houston, Texas;  Premier Sponsors: Mr. & Mrs. Greg Ruzicka; and Supporting Sponsors: Biscuits and Berries, and Mike and Cyd Rodriguez.

Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Heart Institute is ranked among the top 20 pediatric hospitals in the nation for heart care and surgery and is led by pediatric cardiologist Dr. Dunbar Ivy and pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. James Jaggers.


It is one of only eight stand-alone pediatric research centers in the nation and one of the fastest-growing pediatric cardiac programs. The institute is comprised of more than 15 departments, including cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, heart transplant, and other specialties.

The Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation funds high quality care, support to families of patients and research into pediatric disease. Serious pediatric disease is extremely stressful for patients and their families and the Children’s Hospital Foundation raises funds to ease the burden of these families.  In addition, the research they fund helps to decrease the number of children needing treatment.

Upcoming Foundation fundraisers include Children’s Colorado Hoops Fest on May 2 and Climb for Courage Stair Climb on June 27. For more information visit: 


16th Annual Women United Luncheon


Women do lunch best. The 16th Annual Women United Luncheon was a sold-out event. Over 1,000 women and a few men made sure that the ballroom at the downtown Marriott was alive with chatter and greetings for friends and colleagues.

Christine Benero, president & CEO of Mile High United Way, was (and always is) full of energy as she maneuvered through the crowd greeting and acknowledging the many women who support Mile High United Way and, always, she is first to recognize those who make this event successful.

Thursday afternoon’s program was all about connections and, how connections are the threads to transform lives in our community. For 127 years, Mile High United Way has served as a catalyst for social change. Benero proudly exclaimed, “We are women united.”

Kathy Ambrose, a long time Denver volunteer, advocate and philanthropist was awarded the 2014 Frances Wisebart Jacobs award. She was recognized for her leadership spirit and for transforming lives of countless girls, women and families.

Keynote speaker Will Schwalbe, author of “The End of Your Life Book Club,” was engaging and endearing as he spoke to the huge crowd. He introduced the audience to his mother through his book and his memories, and, enlightened listeners to the journey they embarked upon together. The hours they spent sharing books and opinions in endless hospital waiting rooms and chemo chairs gave the author invaluable time with his mother. They spoke of her life and her gift of sharing and ‘doing’ for those less fortunate. Mary Anne Schwalbe wasn’t just a mother, wife, reader. She set out to build libraries in third world countries and she accomplished that before she died.  The connection between she and her son gave them precious time to read books, all kinds of books, and discuss them. Though there were no potluck dinners or snacks, their time together built a lifetime of memories. Schwalbe shares them in his book.

The 16th Annual Women United luncheon was a success in every way. Sold out tables, sold out books signed by Will Schwalbe, and strong women who arrived there through leadership, compassion and giving.

Women United of the Mile High United Way, is a community of women giving financial support that ensures the community’s impact on improving school readiness, youth success and adult self-sufficiency. If you’re interested in taking on a leadership role please contact the Mile High United Way, 711 Park Avenue West, Denver, 80205.




Aspire. Act. Achieve

CWEE is the best thing that could have happened to me.”

Alicia Ramirez, CWEE 2014 Outstanding Alumnae Award Recipient

Alicia Ramirez is endearingly bashful. She doesn’t want to share about herself, especially in a boastful way. But, she does not hesitate to credit The Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE) for dramatically changing the course of her life. She was one of three 2014 Outstanding Alumnae Award Recipients who shared their stories at CWEE’s Annual Awards Luncheon and Fundraiser. The gathering, aptly titled Act. Aspire. Achieve., inspired all of its nearly 300 guests.

Award honoree Effie Henderson shared how CWEE helped her step on a path of sustainable self-sufficiency and home ownership. She radiates grace and gratitude as she talks about being able to buy her home. And she is ready for whatever life deals her. Her motto: “Every obstacle in your life prepares you for greater things.”

Honree Kathy Mojica courageously revealed that “being poor wasn’t the worst of it. It was watching my children experience it.” Today, she lights up as she talks about how well her children and grandchildren are doing and she credits CWEE for helping her put the pieces in place for that success. She spoke about an exercise she had to do when she first enrolled in the program. “We had to look in the mirror and say ‘I love you’ to our reflection. That seemed so weird. I didn’t want to do that. The other women and I looked at each other, all thinking ‘What did I get myself into?’ And yet, what a difference it made! Little did I know I would learn so much more than just about employment. I learned I had value.”

Becca Treece summed up the emotion of the day. “To hear firsthand the strides these women made to achieve self-sufficiency in sustainable ways is inspiration to us all.”

Brandi Miller put it another way. “These women are warriors, powerful, triumphant and action-oriented. CWEE’s participants are not ordinary. They have a hunger, a drive to succeed. I believe our participants can accomplish anything. Then, they move further forward by giving back to their community.”

The Honorable Elbra Wedgeworth, Chief Government and Community Relations Officer at Denver Health And Hospitals Authority, inspired everyone in attendance as she spoke about her journey, which includes being the only person who has served in all three branches of city government: City Council, City Auditor’s Office and the Mayor’s Office. “I never thought the world would be waiting for me, but it is. And it’s waiting for you too.”

Other honorees included Volunteer of the Year: Chamber Connect Leadership Program; Employer of the Year: Christian Living Communities; Community Partner of the Year: WorkLife Partnership; Corporate Partner of the Year: KeyBank; Foundation Partner of the Year: Season To Share, A Campaign of Denver Post Charities, A McCormick Foundation Fund

Since 1982, The Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE) has been fostering personal and professional transformation for low-income individuals through integrated services designed to build confidence, develop customized skills, and facilitate career advancement. CWEE’s program combines services such as: adult literacy, intensive case management, family support, job readiness training, and job placement: to remove barriers to becoming successfully employed, and to place individuals in jobs long-term. CWEE’s holistic program is a solution that reduces generational poverty in our community through cultivating an educated and skilled workforce and self-sustaining families.




Get Leadership Fit!

This year’s Women’s Success Forum: Get Leadership Fit! delivered something for everyone, from insightful speakers to amazing auction items to awe-inspiring awards. It was an energizing, engaging day for the more than 1,100 women and men who attended.

Johns Manville CEO Mary Rhinehart opened the event with the story of how her company began: a tale of ingenuity and partnership. Next, award-winning author, speaker and executive coach Debra Benton boiled down the attitude all effective leaders possess into two words: expect acceptance.

“They always expect to be accepted,” explained Debra Benton. She emphasized the need to always expect to be accepted and, in turn, accept everyone. “Children learn what they live, so live like you expect acceptance,” she explained.

New York Times best-selling author Curt Coffman started his talk with a joke and then went on to share brilliant insights about culture and its crucial role in strategy and performance. Next door, career-fulfillment expert and success coach Tama Kieves began her presentation with guided meditation, which proved a popular way for guests to prepare to sink into becoming inspired and unstoppable. One room down from soothing music Jan Rutherford, former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, coach and author, shared concrete solutions to getting past over-managing and under-leading to become courageous, humble and disciplined leaders. Gaye Woods, Group Director Community Health Improvement at Centura Health, busy in another room, spoke about how quality leadership calls for emotional intelligence, adaptability, body wisdom and compassion.

“We’ve had it all wrong: It’s not your bank accounts, titles or lack of access that’s holding you back. It’s your health,” shared Gaye Woods. She went on to explain how each person could increase his or her body wisdom and improve their health.

The event’s “Auction it Forward” section included oodles of items. Guests could bid on anything and everything from spa treatments to a day on the lake to Broncos games to team building retreats.

The afternoon session included an executive panel discussion. 9News Anchor and Business Reporter Gregg Moss facilitated the talk. Panelists included Executive Vice President, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and President, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado Donna Lynne, CoBank President Mary McBride and Johns Manville CEO Mary Rhinehart.

This year, The Leadership Investment presented an award not given every year. It is one bestowed upon a woman who has distinguished herself as an exceptional leader in her workplace and community, an activist for change, a role-model for tomorrow’s leaders, and a person committed to the advancement of women. Merrill-Lynch Wealth Management Market Executive Jodi Rolland proudly accepted the 2014 Stephanie Allen Woman of Vision Award. The loudest cheers came from her husband and two sons who proudly came to the event.

The Leadership Investment also honored nine outstanding individuals as finalists for its 2014 Success Awards for Woman, Man and Rising Leader of the Year. The finalists included Brocade Senior Engineering Manager Renata Colitti O’Day; President, ANB Bank, Investment Management & Trust Carolyn Paul; Cummins Rocky Mountain Chief Financial Officer Caroline Slider Asimakopoulos; IQNavigator President and CEO Joe Juliano; enVision Vice President & Client Partner Alain Paolini; Comcast West Division President Steve White and Cisco Systems Strategic Account Manager Jennifer Chang; Covidien Director, Quality Assurance, Todd Hansell; and Johns Manville Manager, Produce Engineering Zeb Sukle. Finalists for company of the year included Charles Schwab, IMA and New Belgium Brewing.

Colorado artists Michelle Manquen and Board Emeritus member of The Leadership Investment Linda Bedinger each created lovely, unique art awards and thank you gifts for the winners and panelists.

The mission of The Leadership Investment is to focus on supporting and advancing women in their careers by developing leaders, connecting people and inspiring action. The Leadership Investment recognizes the vital contribution of men and acknowledges that engaging men is critical to the success of its mission.

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.

Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network's 13th Annual Mental Health Benefit Luncheon


“Spread a smile every day. You may not even know what you’re doing, but you may save someone’s life.”

These powerful words were delivered by keynote speaker Kevin Hines at the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network’s 13th Annual Mental Health Benefit Luncheon on May 9. Hines is not only a powerful speaker advocating for the importance of mental health, but he’s also only only one of 34 people to survive a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Doors opened at 11:00am for a brief reception and an opportunity to network with local business professionals, corporate sponsors and mental health advocates. The luncheon program promptly started at 11:30am with a decadent lunch, uplifting award ceremony, and keynote speech given by Kevin Hines.

Hines described his childhood and the difficulty he had as a teenager with manic depression, more commonly known as bipolar disorder. He described the auditory and visual hallucinations that would constantly tell him that he needed to die, which drove him to his attempt off the Golden Gate in 2000 when he was only 19 years old. Although the fall broke him physically, his spirit only became stronger. Shortly following his release from the hospital, a priest asked him to speak to a class about his story, and Hines has been speaking publicly since, hoping he can make an impact and help people live mentally well.

Dave Aguilera, meteorologist and reporter for CBS Denver, emceed the event. In addition to emceeing numerous events for non-profits groups throughout the year, Dave speaks to hundreds of elementary school students around the area, and is on the board of directors for the Learning Source, a non-profit literacy group.

Hand-painted watering cans were sold as a fundraiser to benefit the Network.

The Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network is an all-inclusive resource for mental and behavioral health, with clients from struggling with everyday troubles to individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. Their care is accessible to everyone, despite economic status. The professionals on staff not only help and treat patients, but are also active in the community with outreach and educational events helping to identify signs of mental illness to help protect those who may not be able to speak up.

In addition to the work they do in office, Executive Director and CEO Joan DiMaria states that in the wake of the tragedy at Arapahoe High School, the Network has committed more than 800 hours of mental health disaster response to the recovery of those affected.

Mi Casa 2nd Annual Women's Empowerment Luncheon


Recognizing and acknowledging Latina founders and program alumni were one of the themes at this year’s Mi Casa Women’s Empowerment Fund Luncheon. 7NEWS Anchor Anne Trujillo, a former Mi Casa board member, welcomed more than 150 guests for the 2nd Annual Women’s Empowerment Luncheon at Mi Casa offices in Denver’s historic Baker neighborhood.

Executive Director Christine Marquez-Hudson reviewed the history, achievements and challenges during her six-year tenure and announced a new 3-year $690,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation to integrate business and career training programs.

Marquez-Hudson recognized early founders and directors including Carol Hildebrand and Ermalinda Monge. Among others in attendance were: Veronica Barela, Patricia Barela Rivera, Angelena Gleason, Roweena Naidoo, and Mary Ricketson, Teri Chavez, Jeri Barajas, Martha Rubi Byers, Angela Montoya Bricmont and Mi Casa board members Benita Duran, Amy Kahn, Debbie Trujillo.

Keynote speaker Kim M. Rivera shared her immigrant journey from Latin American orphan to global Fortune 500 corporate executive.

Needless to say, it wasn’t easy. Without friends or family with intimate knowledge of higher education scholarships, grants and student loans, she had to figure things out for herself. Arriving fresh off an airplane in North Carolina the wide-eyed freshman asked the cab driver to drop her off at Duke University. The driver scoffed and explained that the 9,000-acre campus was comprised of more than 200 buildings.

Thanks to family support and many helpful mentors along the way she navigated the campus, class work, and workload to compete with the best of the best, eventually graduating from Duke and Harvard Law School.

Today, Rivera serves as the Chief Legal Officer for DaVita Healthcare Partners, and has remembered the men and women throughout her life who helped her through the undergrad and law school maze of competing priorities. Rivera told the audience to learn quickly how things work, set goals, and strive to “pay it forward” and lend others a helping hand when possible.

Mi Casa works to advance the economic success of Latino and working families by expanding opportunities for educational, professional and entrepreneurial advancement. For more information on Mi Casa visit




Thinking "Out of the Box" and taking the Cardboard Challenge

Cardboard refrigerator boxes make perfect rocket ships. Or trains. Or Indy cars. When you’re young those big, brown, bendable, cut-able, blank canvases—which are just begging for illustration—are an unbeatable source for creativity. Thinking about and outside the cardboard box, Cherry Creek Schools Foundation brought award-winning filmmaker and digital strategist Nirvan Mullick to its 20th Annual Foundation Luncheon to raise awareness about the role of creativity in the world.

Two years ago Mullick created the short digital film titled CAINE’S ARCADE. It’s the story of a boy who created an elaborate arcade from recycled cardboard boxes. Going viral, it’s blossomed into a movement to foster creativity in kids.

Cherry Creek Schools took Mullick’s message to heart and invited its student to put together creations using cardboard and recycled materials. A sculpture garden of student work stood outside the luncheon dining room. There was a working piano, patron-packed miniature Cowboys stadium, windmill golf, fish tank and snack machine. Raime Leeby-Muhle of Arrow Electronics explained why the company chose to sponsor Cherry Creek’s Cardboard Challenge: “We want to foster innovation in the classroom.” The Challenge attracted students from kindergarten through high school. The local winners were Gavin  Bradshaw in the K-2nd grade division for Snack Machine, Hannah Jenkins in the 3rd-5th division for Piano and Angie Cave for Rude Goldberg Machine, Joshua Hojnowski in the Middle School division for Cowboy football stadium and Andy Mills in the High School division for Windmill Golf.

The luncheon was also an opportunity to recognize a variety of award winners. Catherine Canny Educator Advocate Award Honoree Jim McDermott turned the attention from himself to the crowd of 575 attendees when he said, “You understand the importance in the wider community and the need to inspire students to think, learn, achieve and care.” It was a special thrill this year, as Dr. Catherine Canny was in the audience.

Cherry Creek School Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull put numbers around his words of praise to everyone at the luncheon.

“On behalf of the 54,226 students in 59 schools and seven programs that are part of the Cherry Creek School District, I thank you. ”

Cherry Creek School Foundation Board President Leslie Ginsburg was happy to have the chance to share about the 2014 Champions of Education Honoree EKS&H. The accounting company is built on a culture of serving others and building trust. The firm lives out its philosophy, as it has been a longtime supporter of the Foundation.

“Their service to the non-profit community is a reflection of their company values,” said Leslie Ginsburg.

EKS&H CEO Bob Hottman graciously put the honors back on the audience.

“As a firm, we think education is something that never stops. Giving a child is an education is critical. We are happy to be honored, but the real heroes are all of you for all you do for the Foundation. I think all of you are the champions.”

After experiencing tremendous curiosity and support from around the world, Mullick launched the Imagination Foundation. Its mission is to raise a new generation of innovators and problem solvers who have the tools they need to build the world they imagine. In his address, Mullick explained that the “most magical thing about all of this is that it inspired kids to play. They put down their Xboxes.”  From the look and sounds of today, Cherry Creek Schools Foundation is doing its part in putting creativity at the core of its students learning experience.

37th Annual Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award


The Spirit of Volunteerism in Denver

The mission of the Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award ( is to encourage volunteerism by celebrating the voluntary achievements of individuals whose efforts may not otherwise be recognized. Each month of the year (except December), the awards committee selects one outstanding volunteer for this special recognition. The award includes a ceremony honoring their service, a plaque, a mayoral proclamation, and a monetary award to the nonprofit organization of each recipient’s choice.

On Thursday, December 5, 2013, this year’s 12 outstanding Denverites were celebrated and recognized for their community involvement. Each was awarded the Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award at this once-a-year recognition celebration.

Tammy Rivera Berberick was recognized for her work with the Florence Crittenton Services of Colorado;

Kermit Shields for his dedication to Friends of Dinosaur Ridge;

Mike Criner has been a devoted volunteer and leader at Habitat for Humanity in Metro Denver;

Gloria Koshio, a longtime volunteer with the Denver studio of Learning Ally, a national organization that publishes audio textbooks for people with visual disabilities;

Gerie Grimes has worked for more than three decades for children and youth programs in Metro Denver. She has served as President of Falcon Youth Organization for 36 years;

Mary Rogers has been a board member of Anchor Center for Blind Children for the past 16 years;

Barbara Miller has volunteered more than 6,000 hours at the Food Bank of the Rockies over the last 18 years;

Jay Jones volunteers at the summer camp operated by the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado;

Ruben Duran was honored for his volunteer contributions to CHARG Resource Center;

Donn Spector has contributed numerous services over the past 45 years to Jewish Colorado, Denver Public Schools, Denver Urban League and the Autism Society of Colorado;

Brad and Tom Iskiyan, father and son duo, have helped Wish for Wheels give away more than 3,500 bikes and helmets to children who otherwise may not be able to have them.

Mayor Michael Hancock, in his recognition of the nominees, was adamant about the respect and deep admiration he has for those who volunteer in Denver. He heartily thanked all the volunteers proclaiming, “It is you who are honored today, who treat people with sincere kindness, knowing they can do nothing for you. That is true volunteerism.”

The award is named after Minoru Yasui, a businessman who volunteered for 16 years and left a vivid imprint and legacy to Denver. He was known to fight for the rights of all people as well as his tireless commitment to helping those in need.  In 1976, the first Minoru Yasui award recipient was 86-year-old Bertha Simon, who knitted more than 1,000 pairs of mittens for the Head Start program.

The committee looks forward to honoring more volunteers in the years to come as their values continue to guide the work they’re doing through vision, integrity, passion, courage, perseverance, advocacy, inclusion, compassion.

If you would like to nominate an outstanding volunteer for this award please visit the website:, and fill out the online application. Or contact The Denver Foundation, 303-300-1790,


National Philanthropy Day in Colorado

Change the world with a giving heart was the theme for this year’s National Philanthropy Day in Colorado, a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center. The day shows that alongside Colorado’s identify as part of the rugged west, it is also one of the most caring places to live in the country.

KMGH-7News anchor Mitch Jelniker was in his element as emcee for the gathering. Since 1999, he has been writing about a 7Everyday Hero every week. At first he feared he may not get any nominees. But, another testament to the giving people of Colorado, the segment has aired for more than 13 years. He invited everyone to keep those nominations coming.

The awards presentation started with FirstBank Holding Company graciously accepting the honor of Outstanding Large Business. The bank is one of the best performing in the country. Zooming in for a closer look at home, the business has provided more than $40 million in financial donations to Colorado nonprofits since 2000. And it is a race leader in Colorado Gives Day as it has contributed $1.7 million to support the initiative with an incentive fund, prizes for nonprofits, and coverage of third-party processing fees. But the caring isn’t just about writing checks. It’s about creating a culture of philanthropy. The company has an employee Volunteer Program that encourages thousands of team members to volunteer their time to support organizations. Employees receive paid days off to support the organizations they love.

Adam and Jon Schlegel, owners of Snooze, an a.m. eatery, and winner of the Outstanding Small Business award, popped up the stairs to the stage like two skateboarders wearing casual shirts and pants and huge humble smiles. They shared a bit about their philosophy, reminding us that it “only takes a moment to make a difference.” But they don’t just give a moment. The two are sinking into the needs of the Ballpark neighborhood. In fact, Snooze’s marketing budget is primarily reserved for helping nonprofits that support the homeless. They hire directly from Urban Peak, a local nonprofit that provides employment opportunities to youth experiencing homelessness. A slice of every delicious pancake means change in the community as a portion of each dollar brought into Snooze makes its way into the community through donations, sponsorships, or in-kind contributions.

HomeAid Colorado was named Outstanding Service Organization. The agency serves those who are temporarily homeless. The organization bridges the way the way for builders, linking them with charitable projects that meet their interests and abilities. The outcome is the construction of first-class housing for the homeless. Since 1999, HomeAid Colorado has raised more than $3.5 million and created 43 housing units, which provide 275 beds.

Of course, each nomination is carefully reviewed and deliberated by an award selection committee. This year, the committee unanimously selected Valerie Escatel as its Outstanding Volunteer award winner and as soon as she stepped to the podium it was clear why. Valerie Escatel puts the attention on those she helps.

“Anytime I can work with kids it makes me happy.”

She, therefore, is a very happy person. She gives a great deal of time to Boys and Girls Clubs as well as to Bromley East Elementary School. She is started Adelante Juntos, an advocacy group to help School District 27J and its parents work together to increase Hispanic student achievement. She is getting skilled at accepting awards, as earlier this year she received the Mary Ciancio Memorial Distinguished Service Award for her service to her community.

Like Valerie Escatel, Joan Brennan, this year’s Outstanding Philanthropist award winner, shifted the credit. She acknowledged her family.

“Generations of family have shown compassion for others. It’s what I was taught to do,” said Joan Brennan. She continues this teaching. When she turned 70, her children and grandchildren gave 70 hours of volunteer time, and this wasn’t her idea.

“The fact that her children and grandchild chose that as a birthday gift shows how this has been a part of Joan’s life for a very long time,” said her close friend Marilyn Harris.

Joan went on to say she thinks philanthropy work should be a little “quiet.” She may be quiet, but her work speaks volumes. She personally provided the initial investment in the convening of the School Finance Partnership. This partnership laid the foundation for what became Senate Bill 213, one of the most significant education reform measures in over a decade.

Tim Schultz, Outstanding Professional Grantmaker award winner, is at the helm of of the Boettcher Foundation. Since 1996, he has funded nearly 2,900 grants totaling more than $173 million. But his philanthropy did not start when he came to Boettcher. As executive director for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs he designed a program of community development for 228 towns with populations under 5,000. He also created a program to help young farmers and ranchers. His pride and joy, though, was sharing the day with his granddaughter Sophie.

Team Community First Foundation was serious and a little silly, which exemplifies their work. The agency gets down to business and loves doing it. A pinnacle of the foundation’s work is its focus on generating awareness for Colorado Gives Day, a 24-hour event to inspire Coloradoans to support their local communities, which has generated more than $37 million for Colorado charities in the last three years. The representative who accepted the award aptly put in a plug for this year’s Colorado Gives Day, which drew respect, laughter, and applause.

It was like the clean air of the country blew in when Dorothy Brandt, winner of the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser award, took the stage. She sported a long-sleeved black T-shirt with the San Luis Valley Museum logo. Her voice, as sweet as the scenery of the valley, brought out spontaneous smiles from everyone listening. She delightfully declared she needed more time, but as for her part, she had practiced and knew she had her acceptance down to about 3 minutes, a departure from the 60 seconds given to award winners. She delightfully raced through reading the poem she wrote to share her story of winning the award. She followed by comically explaining her new understanding of the grant writing process.

“They asked what groups did we serve and I wrote ‘people’. I didn’t know there was another way to answer that,” said Dorothy. Her efforts were successful as she raised more than $300,000 in grants, donations, and corporate support for the museum. Her good-natured ribbing was followed with high praise to her funders.

“There would be nothing without the people who give us the money to do this. We are ready and waiting and you give to us. We are so grateful. Our country and people are worth it, so let’s keep working together.” Standing ovation number one.

She was a hard act to follow, but Griff Freyschlag, Outstanding Professional Fundraiser award winner, did an outstanding job of capitalizing on the audience’s enthusiasm (which is further testament as to why he is so good at what he does).

“Dorothy exemplifies what philanthropy is all about. You are passion and excitement,” said Griff to his fellow award-winner. He then made a confession: the job of a fundraiser is one of the best ever.

“As fundraisers we get to communicate exciting and interesting missions. At Denver Rescue Mission we ask people to invest in hope,” said Griff. When Griff signed on with the Denver Rescue Mission they asked him to hold a budget of $8 million. He saw beyond that and is continually and successfully working to expand the operations and offerings of Denver Rescue Mission.

The focus turned to future philanthropists. First, the Rocky Canyon High School Student Council lined the stage as Mitch Jelniker shared about how the council set a reasonable goal of raising money to make one child’s dream come true through the Kids for Wish Kids program. To date, the school community has raised more than $160,000, resulting in 26 wishes being filled for Make-A-Wish Colorado. These funds are all raised in a single week each year called Wish Week.

Marko Babiak is 13 years old. In his words, philanthropy can start at anytime.

“It’s never too early to serve your community,” said Babiak, who has been getting bins for Clothes to Kids of Denver in Denver Public Schools for two years. During his acceptance speech he announced that his neighbor, who worked for a foundation, invited him to pitch his project to the group.

“I found out my pitch hit the bullseye,” said Marko. The foundation will pay for the bins so that Marko can meet his goal of getting 50 clothing donation bins in DPS schools. Bring on standing ovation number two.

In his video, Marko gave everyone sage advice on how to begin: “Start by opening your eyes. Ask yourself how can I make my school, community and neighborhood better?”

From futures to lifetimes. Yet, Sally Rippey, winner of the Lifetime Achievement award, made it clear she is not finished in philanthropy. Following the reading of a long, long list of impact and achievement, Sally was invited to the stage. With a wink and a smile she concluded her acceptance speech in verse.

“I’m thrilled. I’m honored.

I thank you a ton.

But you all need to know

This gal isn’t done.”

Standing ovation three.

Now, in essence to the poetry of today,

It must be fair to say

That the hope is that the applause in our hearts never dies down

Because Colorado has proven

It’s one big giving, caring town!


MS On the Move Luncheon


Colorado and Wyoming have some of the highest incidence of MS in the nation. Why is still a mystery. Perhaps it has something to do with the mile high altitude, the mountain streams, the lack of humidity. Nevertheless, the answer lies somewhere in the Rocky Mountains and the fact remains, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system by disrupting the flow of information from the brain to the body. There is no known cause and no known cure.

Those are dire facts above for those living with MS and for anyone who suspects they may have the disease. The good news is there is help. The Colorado-Wyoming Chapter helps over 100,000 people affected by MS move forward with their lives each year. The funds raised support the Society’s cutting-edge research and provide comprehensive programs and services for people living with MS.

Tuesday’s luncheon featured the presentation of the MS Spirit Award to Marc Spritzer, a tireless volunteer who became involved in the MS society when his wife was diagnosed with MS. Marc is a true advocate for people living with multiple sclerosis.

The keynote speaker, Ronda Giangreco, lives with MS. Her story began in 2008 as a healthy vibrant woman one day; the next day she awakened to numbness on her left side. The next day, more numbness. The diagnosis was multiple sclerosis. One thought kept going through h