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December 04, 2004 - Deck the Halls, Trim the Tree at Annual Festival of Trees Gala

What: 26th Annual Festival of Trees Holiday Gala

Where: The Wildlife Experience, Parker

When: December 4, 2004

Beneficiary: ArtReach, Inc.

Honoree(s): Mary McNicholas, recipient of the Ginger Merelli Special Event Volunteer Award

EMCEE: Scott Sanders, CBS4

Presenting Sponsor(s): RE/MAX International

Gala Chairperson(s): Mary Meade, Diane Metz Kreider, Linda Watson, Karla Johnson-Grimes

Honorary Chairperson(s): Lone Tree Mayor Jack O'Boyle and Margie O'Boyle

Corporate Chairperson(s): Dave and Gail Liniger

Executive Director: Jil Rosentrater

Committee Members: Anne Looby Beermann, Nicole Bludeau, Jenny Bock, Jim Bock, Amy Brimah, Lorenzo Chavez, Debby Cernich, Amy Gibbs, Ellen Gysin, Phyllis Hammond, Beth Kahmann, Lee Keatinge, Rich Kylberg, Tami Lack, Hedy Margolis, Lance Morton, Kate Morton, Terry Nelson, Barbara Reasoner, Jil Rosentrater, Molly Ross, Tricia Schmuki, Kari Stutz, Elena VanDecar, Irvin Wheeler, Karye Wilhelm, Connie Wyckoff

Staff: Irvin Wheeler, Jenny Bock, Tricia Schmuki, Hedy Margolis, Nicole Bludeau

Entertainment: Dozens of Christmas trees, wreaths, swags and mantlepieces

Music: Jump Start

Sponsors: Santa’s Breakfast: FirstBank Holding Company and David L. Tandy Foundation; In-Kind Media: The Denver Post, KOSI Radio, CBS4, Colorado Expression Magazine, Colorado Parent Magazine, The Villager, Colorado Community Newspaper; Community: City of Lone Tree; Holiday Tree and Gala Table: KPMG LLP; Holiday Tree: Christmas Décor by Swingle, Tree and Lawn Care, Codilis and Stawiarski, Holland and Hart, Honnen Equipment, The Urman Company, Wittry Inc., Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, Marty and Joe Davis, Carol and Eric Hansen, Drs. Paul Dragul, Alan Lipkin, Nicolette Picerno and Jeff Raual; Holiday Gala Table: Jamie and Alan Angelich, Beco Equipment, Boston Market, Cimarex Energy, First Data Corp., Linhart McClain Finlon PR, M.D.C. Holdings/Richmond American Homes, Wells Fargo, Phyllis Hammond and Sam Reiser, Lee and Bob Keatinge, Joan and Ron MacLachlan, Mary and Tom Meade, Mary and Kevin McNicholas; Special ArtReach Friends: US Bank, Student Movers, The Wildlife Experience, SCFD, Brownstein Hyatt and Farber P.C., SkyRidge Medical Center

Auctioneer: Representative Debbie Stafford

Attendance: 350

Attire: Blacktie

Information: Please call 303.433.2882 or visit

Blacktie Photos by: Elizabeth Byrnes Crony

 Founder of The Wildlife Experience Museum Dave Liniger of RE/MAX International, the presenting sponsor, with the 2004 Festival of Trees Co-Chairs Linda Watson, left, Diane Metz Kreider, Mary Meade and Karla Johnson-Grimes.
Founder of The Wildlife Experience Museum Dave Liniger of RE/MAX International, the presenting sponsor, with the 2004 Festival of Trees Co-Chairs Linda Watson, left, Diane Metz Kreider, Mary Meade and Karla Johnson-Grimes.

Elizabeth Byrnes Crony

Freezing temperatures did not stop a few hundred blacktie-clad guests, as they gathered for a second year in a row, at The Wildlife Experience for the 26th Annual Festival of Trees Winter Gala, a benefit for ArtReach. “This is a unique and fun way to kick-off the holiday season,” said a warmly fur-bundled guest, as she and her friend headed for the entrance.

Changing lives through art is the mission of ArtReach, established in 1974. A Colorado nonprofit arts and human services organization, ArtReach changes lives through the arts. Working with 180 nonprofits agencies, ArtReach programs impact the lives of over 80,000 at-risk and under-served children, adults and elderly in the Denver Metro area.

RE/MAX International was the presenting sponsor for the Festival of Trees Winter Gala at The Wildlife Experience, and under a five-year agreement will be until 2008. The Festival Co-Chairs were Co-President of the Board Diane Metz Kreider, Board Members Mary Meade and Karla Johnson-Grimes and Linda Watson of SkyRidge Medical Center. Dave and Gail Liniger were the Corporate Chairs and Lone Tree Mayor Jack O’Boyle and his wife Margie were the Honorary Chairs.

The holiday festival includes Santa’s Breakfast and a 15-day silent auction, with the Festival Gala as the highlight. Dozens of trees in various sizes, wreaths, mantle pieces and more holiday décor was set up throughout the entire Wildlife Museum. Professional designers and artists, ArtReach agencies and friends of ArtReach design the holiday items. Judges carefully score each item and first, second and third place ribbons are put on the pieces the day of the gala.

Scott Sanders of CBS4 emceed the gala and after a video about ArtReach, presented the Ginger Merelli Special Event Volunteer Award. The award honors a special event volunteer who has positively impacted the fund raising capacity of their organization. The award was created by a group of dedicated special event volunteers to commemorate the volunteer work of Ginger Merelli, who died in 2002.

Ginger Merelli was the kind of volunteer that organizations dream about. For 15 years, Ginger volunteered with ArtReach on special events, served on the board, and assisted in the office. She worked on committees for the Festival of Trees, chairing the event twice. She helped to create the Ultimate Dinner Party, a signature event of ArtReach that for 14 years has brought significant income to ArtReach. She also served on the board of directors, including serving as an ex-officio and honorary board member. Ginger was the kind of volunteer that, when needed, would roll up her sleeves and do the nitty gritty work that needed to be done. Ginger was also an extraordinary leader and was able to communicate her enthusiasm about ArtReach to others and motivate them to excel in their volunteer positions. Many of the volunteers that she personally got involved with ArtReach still volunteer today.

The very special recipient of this award, Mary McNicholas, was chosen for her commitment to the Rocky Mountain MS Center’s fundraising and her passion for bringing together her friends to support a variety of events and activities throughout the Denver metro area. Mary’s big heart, enthusiasm and passion for raising money for people living with multiple sclerosis has raised over $1.5 million throughout the yearly gala for the Rocky Mountain MS Center. “I never had the opportunity to meet Ginger,” said Mary, as she accepted the honor. “Now knowing what she has done, I am humbled and honored to accept this award.”

Mary was awarded $1,000 for the nonprofit of her choice. And thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Merelli Family, ArtReach has established an endowment fund through the Denver Foundation that will enable them to provide the $1,000 award for the next 25 years. Consistent with Ginger’s ability to provide a platform for ongoing value to the organization, this gift not only honors Ginger and other special event volunteers, but has enabled ArtReach to establish its first endowment fund and campaign. This is just another example of how Ginger’s impact on ArtReach will last for generations.

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