If you’re part of the military community you already get it. If not, what you learn will make an impact. Star-Spangled Gala is a grassroots fundraiser that feels like a cherished reunion. Family-friendly, both kids and adults get a kick out of the event’s aquarium location. The grownups also have the opportunity to support small-but-mighty Healing Warriors Program. Its mission? To improve the wellness of veterans and their families through non-narcotic care.

The Denver Dolls strike a pose.

On Saturday, Oct. 8, supporters from across the Front Range gathered in Denver at Downtown Aquarium to raise money for Healing Warriors. The evening began with a silent auction and reception followed by a dinner program full of emotion, balanced with some fun. Flatirons Young Marines conducted the presentation of the colors and The Denver Dolls sang the national anthem and provided dinner entertainment. USAF Maj. Paul Schnell (Ret.) gave the invocation and Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony, and emcee Ken Clark, KWGN-TV Channel 2, presided over speakers and recognition of honored guests. Award recipients were: Tanya Pratkelis, Jackie Cooper, Elevations Credit Union, Hannover Life ReAssurance Company of America and Jim Stevens. Retiring executive director Ana Palles Yelen and new executive director Laura Whitney also took the stage.

The always-anticipated live auction of coveted pies created by accomplished baker Yelen inspired spirited, competitive bidding–the talk began during the reception and bantering continued even as everyone took their places for dinner. At evening’s end, guests had the opportunity to tour the aquarium with family and friends.

Healing Warriors Program co-founders Shelley Poland (left) and Ana Yelen

Healing Warriors Program was founded in Fort Collins by Ana Palles Yelen and Rochelle (Shelley) Poland in 2013 due to a gap in care available to service members and the need to interrupt the factors that lead to service member suicides. The organization serves the veteran community and their families by providing care therapies that integrate with a service member’s standard medical care in order to achieve the individual’s wellness goals and restore quality of life. After the impacts of the pandemic and the Afghanistan withdrawal, Healing Warriors says it is “stronger and more agile in our mission to serve the needs of our veteran community. We saw an increased need for services as clients reported an escalation of Post Traumatic Stress symptoms, anxiety, anger, grief, sleep disturbance and pain management issues. Everything we’ve learned in these past nine years, since our inception, has given us critical knowledge, essential structure and mobilization as we look to the challenges that lay ahead with increased suicide and need for support. All funds raised at this event go towards our four-pillared program model to help our transitioning service members.”

For more information, go to HealingWarriorsProgram.org, or call 970-776-VETS (8387). To access the Veterans Crisis Line, call 1-800-273-8255. Learn more at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/.

Blacktie Colorado
Blacktie Colorado