With all the hard-fought success stories and visible camaraderie, Third Way Center’s annual True Grit gala always lives up to its courage-focused name. Guests can easily walk away feeling inspired. This year’s theme, honoring Third Way’s “trailblazers”—15 women who have given at least 20 years of effort and dedication to help troubled teens—fanned the positive vibe. But fun is a focus as well. And don’t things always seem lighter and more enjoyable when people are wearing a cowboy hat?

Guests of honor, Third Way Center trailblazers

On Saturday, Oct. 21, guests moseyed on over to Infinity Park Event Center for this year’s sold-out occasion. The evening began with a reception featuring beverages and passed hors d’oeuvres from Footers Catering. People could place strategic bids at the silent auction, and even snag a bottle of vino at the wine lasso. Lively background music was provided by talented duo 8 Strings.

Presenting sponsor Gary Gray (left), with board chair Brendan Bartic

Board president and former Third Way Center resident Brendan Bartic emceed a dinner program that featured remarks from two of the evening’s honorees: first-year executive director, Renee Johnson (37 years of service) and founder Hildegard Messenbaugh, M.D. (53 years of service). Others speaking included: presenting sponsor and board vice chair Gary Gray; Denver mayor and former Third Way alternative high school principal Mike Johnston; sponsor Brendan Zahl, president of Community Banks of Colorado; and an uplifting success story from former resident Tamisha Macklin. After the 15 honorees took the stage to receive their awards and well-deserved praise, Jim Berz led a live auction segment designed to drive up bids for the cause.

From Third Way Center: “This year’s gala recognizes and celebrates the contributions of our Trailblazers, the incredible women who, through their years of dedication at Third Way Center, have bettered the lives of the teens who come to us for treatment and support. They bring this culture of shared experience into a place that has enabled Third Way Center to grow from one house to eight, from serving 16 teens to over 200 annually. We recognize these women for their combined 434 years of experience and thank them for their commitment.

Board member and sponsor Stacy Ohlsson (far right), with table guests

“Our trailblazers theme also speaks to our priority of preparing our teens for life once they leave Third Way. They come to us with a variety of needs for treatment and guidance, many fearful of what lies ahead. They leave us as trailblazers who have overcome these challenges–unafraid and ready to face their new lives. Their experiences help us to continue to create new paths and opportunities for others.

“Third Way Center offers truth and hope to high-risk, disadvantaged and often homeless adolescents and their families with complex mental health issues, working toward trauma resolution and becoming productive members of society.” Services include residential houses in Denver, two alternative high schools for residents and specialized treatment programs for substance abuse, vocational and independent living skills, a teen mother program, and after-care and emancipation programs. Typically, teens in Third Way Center programs are referred by the Department of Human Services, Division of Youth Services, various mental health centers or, in some cases, private placement. To learn more, please visit: https://thirdwaycenter.org.

Blacktie Colorado
Blacktie Colorado