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October 16, 2004 - Western Fantasy Gala Gallops into Second Decade, Saluting Americans

What: 11th Annual Western Fantasy Gala

Where: National Western Events Center

When: October 16, 2004

Beneficiary: Volunteers of America Colorado Branch, Colorado Avalanche Community Fund and Post-News Charities Fund, funds of the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation

Mistress of Ceremonies: Kim Christiansen, 9NEWS

Master of Ceremonies: Mark Koebrich, 9NEWS

Honoree(s): Mark Bauman, President and COO of Starz Encore Group, was honored with the 2004 Humanitarian Award

Gala Chairperson(s): Jeff and Jaylene Smith

Corporate Chairperson(s): Jeff Potter, President and CEO of Frontier Airlines

Founders: Sharon Magness Blake and Jean Galloway

Executive Director: Dianna Kunz, President and CEO

Staff: Michael James, Development Director; Jim White, Clare Compton

Invocation: Dianna Kunz, President and CEO of Volunteers of America Colorado Branch

Welcome: Barbara Grogan, Volunteers of America Board Chair

Catering: Epicurean Catering

Entertainment: Randy Travis

Music: Lee Greenwood performed his hit “God Bless the USA”

Of note: Lee Greenwood donated one of his gold albums to the live auction

Menu: Crisp ceberg wedge, Ridgefield tenderloin of beef and herb roasted medallions of Ridgefield Ranch Beef, harvest bread basket, and the Smith's apple cobbler with Robinson Dairy cinnamon ice cream

Attendance: 1,250

Attire: Western Blacktie

Special Thanks: 9News, A.B. Hirschfeld Press,, Bouquets, Cowboys & Indians, Coors Brewing Company, Denver Broncos Football Club, Denver Newspaper Agency, The Denver Post, Epicurean Catering, Fascination St. Gallery, Frontier Airlines, Hyde Park Jewelers, KM Concessions, Kroenke Sports, Bob Litchard, Magness Blake, Maniac Productions, Mile High Station, MudHead Gallery, National Western Stock Show Association, Neiman Marcus, John Quaiel, Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation, Rocky Mountain News, Cheryl and Larry Romrell, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silver Cloud Valet, Sue Alexander Simos, StarzEncore Group, Bill Thatch Photography, Nancy Lamb Thompson, and The Villager.

Florist: Bouquets

Information: Please call 720.264.3322 or visit

Planning Committee: Wendy Aiello, David Alexander, Joni Baird, Tangy Buchanan, Cindi Burge, Elizabeth Byrnes-Crony, Jan Cortez, Kristina Davidson, Christel Dikeman, Deb Dowling, Steve Edmonds, Adrienne Ruston Fitzgibbons, Victoria Frank, Helenn Franzgrote, Sharon Whiton Gelt, Debbie Grandishar, Julie Graebel, Barbara Greene, Gail Johnson, Bradley Joseph, Douglas Kerbs, Sandee LaPedis, Laren Naiman, Jane Netzorg, Louise Richardson, Carol Roger, Roselyn Saunders, April Straight, Nancy Lamb Thompson, Tracy Ulmer, Lynne Valencia, Carol Vogel, Faye Washington, Rachel Werner, Sandy Wolf-Yearick, Jamie Angelich, Dianne Eddolls, Vicki Myhren

Board of Directors: Barbara Grogan, Chairman, Jerome H. Kern, Immediate Past Chairman, Dianna L. Kunz, President and CEO, Bryan J. Pulte, Vice Chairman, Myrna Mourning, Secretary, Katherine H. Kaley, Treasurer, Robert Bardwell, Carl Barnhill, Susan Barnhill, Steve Brett, Mark Carleton, Phyllis M. Coors, Mark Cordova, Dianne Eddolls, Dan Fahrlander, Carol James, Paul M. Keebler, C. David Kikumoto, Jim Maetzold, Julie McCallister, Sharon Magness Blake, Kalleen Malone, Manuel Martinez, Kate Paul, Morris W. Price, Jr., Marcia Robinson, Larry Romrell, Dave Rye, Don Shek, Ron Simpson, Terri Tochihara-Dirks, Stephen Tucker, Maryann Yuthas.

Blacktie Photos by: Sara Buol

 Jeff Potter, President and CEO of Frontier Airlines, left, with Event Co-Chairs Jaylene and Jeff Smith, POW Ron Bliss, Lee Greenwood and Tom Allee, National Director of Community Affairs for Frontier Airlines.
Jeff Potter, President and CEO of Frontier Airlines, left, with Event Co-Chairs Jaylene and Jeff Smith, POW Ron Bliss, Lee Greenwood and Tom Allee, National Director of Community Affairs for Frontier Airlines.

Sara Buol

Boots, chaps, hats, and couple of stars were all visible Saturday, October 16th, at the National Western Events Center, as friends of Volunteers of America kicked up their heels at the 11th Annual Western Fantasy Gala to benefit Volunteers of America, Post-News Charities Fund and the Colorado Avalanche Community Fund, funds of the McCormick Tribune Foundations. Randy Travis and Lee Greenwood headlined an incredible evening – Western Style, with a little help from dedicated Gala Chairs Jaylene and Jeff Smith, and a hard-working committee.

Over 1,200 people came out to support the Volunteers of America Colorado Branch and enjoy the evening’s festivities. This premier gala event, which has been held in Denver for the past ten years, welcomed the start of second decade of success with a night characterized by great music for a great cause.

The evening started off in grand manner, as Sharon Magness Blake, co-founder of the western gala, entered the arena proudly holding the American flag, while riding Thunder, the retired Bronco’s mascot. Grammy and CMA award-winner Lee Greenwood performed “God Bless the USA” as some very special guests, 25 Colorado National Guard soldiers from up and down the Front Range, walked on stage to salute our country. Most of the soldiers have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Later, the soldiers had their photos taken with Corporate Chairs Jeff Potter, President and CEO and Tom Allee, National Director of Community Affairs for Frontier Airlines, along with special guest of Frontier, POW Ron Bliss.

After an invocation by Dianna Kunz, President and CEO of Volunteers of America Colorado Branch, guests enjoyed exquisite cuisine from Epicurean Catering, including Ridgefield Beef and a dessert of apple cobbler. Prior to the evening’s festivities, guests enjoyed cocktails and many tested their luck at “Panning for Gold,” and a chance for a beautiful piece of jewelry donated by Sponsor Hyde Park Jewelers.

Barbara Grogan, Chairman of the Board for the VOA, along with Dianna Kunz, presented the 2004 Humanitarian Award to Mark Bauman, CEO of StarzEncore Group, an active member of the Corporate Committee for Western Fantasy. Over the years, Bauman has been a dedicated advocate for Volunteers of America, successfully enlisting corporate support from numerous businesses, while encouraging both corporate and personal philanthropy throughout his own company.

“Mark exemplifies VOA’s mission to reach and uplift all people in how he lives his life, giving generously and quietly out of a deeply held passion to help people in need, and to share with others the blessings he has received,” said Kunz.

After hearing a testimonial on the big screens from an elderly woman who depends on Meals on Wheels for her livelihood, committee members passed out special Frontier Airlines animals, smaller versions of the adorable characters featured on Frontier’s commercials, to guests who committed to a pledge of $50 or more during the evening. The opportunity bid was a huge success, raising over $50,000 and the live auction raised $130,000. By the evening’s end, over $1.1 million had been raised to benefit Volunteers of America through the 11th Annual Western Fantasy.

Kim Christiansen and Mark Koebrich from 9NEWS ensured things ran smoothly throughout the evening, and even played the roles of auctioneers for the live auction that featured, among other things, a trip to the 2005 Superbowl in Jacksonville, Florida, donated by the Denver Broncos Football Club and United Airlines, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle, generously donated by Cheryl and Larry Romrell. Arlene and Barry Hirschfeld, past co-chairs, showed off the motorcycle as they rounded the arena floor before bidding got underway.

Lee Greenwood presented a very special surprise item on stage – his first gold record, taken directly from his studios in Tennessee for Western Fantasy. “I grabbed this off the wall of my office as I was leaving, knowing that the money raised will be going to a great cause,” said Greenwood, before the bidding got underway. “I will even kiss the horse too,” he joked, referring to Thunder. Moving man David Graebel, along with Phyllis Coors, bought the one-of-a kind record (and kiss) for $10,500. Along with the package, they received the original CD featuring Lee’s hit “God Bless the USA.”

Following the exciting live auction, guests waited anxiously for the night’s entertainment to begin. Each year the committee for Western Fantasy chooses a different country western star to play at the event. Randy Travis, a favorite of those who love classic hard country, did not disappoint fans with his performance. Though Travis had been battling bronchitis, it was not noticeable as he wowed the crowd and had the aisles packed with couples dancing to his classics “Too Gone, Too Long” and “On The Other Hand.”

Along with his country chart-toppers, Travis has moved into gospel with “Inspirational Journey.” The Gospel Music Association’s 32nd Annual Dove Award honored him for Country/Bluegrass Album of the Year and Country Recorded Song of the Year for “Baptism.” Travis balances a full-time music career with a full time acting career, with roles in a number of Westerns and the adaptation of John Grisham’s film, “The Rainmaker.”

The Colorado branch of Volunteers of America was founded in 1896 and is the state’s largest direct human service organization. Over 7,000 volunteers work to deliver services, benefiting over 90,000 people. During the past year, VOA has touched thousands, from seniors receiving Meals on Wheels, to shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence or homelessness, to over 16,000 hot meals delivered to those living with AIDS. The support that Volunteers of America provides reaches someone from every corner up and down the Front Range, on the Western Slope and in Southwestern Colorado. Over the past ten years, Western Fantasy, founded by Sharon Magness Blake and Jean Galloway, has raised over $13 million dollars to benefit Volunteers of America.

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