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October 22, 2005 - VOA's Western Fantasy Gala--Cowboy Up!

What: Volunteers of America's 12th Annual Western Fantasy Gala

Where: National Western Complex

When: October 22, 2005

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Ticket Prices: $300-$10,000; Young Professionals: $145

Beneficiary: Volunteers of America, Post-News Charities, Colorado Avalanche Community Fund, and WB2 Gives (the last three of whom are funds of the McCormick Tribune Foundation.

Mistress of Ceremonies: Asha Blake, WB2 News

Master of Ceremonies: Ernie Bjorkman, WB2 News

Honoree(s): Barry and Arlene Hirschfeld, Humanitarian Award Recipients

Gala Chairperson(s): Kristina and Jay Davidson

Corporate Chairperson(s): William T. McCallum, Great-West Life Assurance Co., Jeff Potter, President and CEO, Frontier Airlines

Founders: Sharon Magness Blake and Jean Galloway

Executive Director: Dianna Kunz

Committee Members: Corporate: Eula Adams, Tom Allee, Sharon Magness Blake, Sunny and Norm Brownstein, Mark Carleton, Luella Chavez D'Angelo, John Faught, Barbara Grogan, A. Barry Hirschfeld, Tom Honig, Andrew Hudson, Kathy Kaley, C. David Kikumoto, David Mandarich, Tom Marsh, Bette Matkowski, Wendy Mitchell, Kate Paul, Jim Possehl, Bryan Bulte, Tom Straight, Teresa Taylor; Steering: David Alexander, Tom Allee, Krista Buford, Cindi Burge, Elizabeth Byrnes Crony, Christel Dikeman, Rene Doubleday, Deb Dowling Canino, Steve Edmonds, Adrienne Fitzgibbons, Helenn Franzgrote, Sharon Whiton Gelt, Debbie Gradishar, Barbara Greene, Gail Johnson, Douglas Kerbs, Sandee LaPedis, Jim Maetzold, Beverly Martinez, Yvonne McCallum, Carol Roger, Lynn Schaffer, Susan Stiff, Nancy Lamb Thompson, Tracy Ulmer, Faye Washington, Rachel Werner, Jill DiPasquale, Shirley Herbert, Steve Rosdal. Advisors: Dianne Eddolls, Jaylene Smith

Staff: Dianna Kunz, Mary Beth Heller, Linda Dee, John Drengacz, John Gamble, Michael James, Nolan Knox, Virdell Miller, Lindi Sinton, Diane Stobnicke, Anna Strobl, Jim White

Invocation: Dianna Kunz

Libations: Fetzer Merlot, Beringer Chardonnay

Catering: Epicurean Catering

Entertainment: Lee Greenwood and his band

Music: Western

Sponsors: New Millennium Partners: Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake; Liberty Media Corp., Paragon Ranch; Diamond Stars: Phyllis Coors, First Data/Western Union Foundation, Hyde Park Jewelers, Starz Entertainment Group, Wells Fargo Banks, Delta Dental; Gold Nuggets: AB Hirschfeld Press, Agrium Inc., AT&T Business Services, Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake, Colorado Business Bank, Coors Brewing Co., Epicurean Catering, First American State Bank, Forest Oil Corp., Frontier Airlines, Gateway American Properties, Barbara and Ed Greene, KPMG LLC, Lockheed Martin, MDC-Richmond American Homes, Merrill Lynch, Murray Motor Imports Kristin and Blair Richardson; Silver Spurs: Accenture, ARC Thrift Stores, Aurora Economic Development Corp., Ball Corp., Banc of America Securities, Brownstein Hyatt & Farber PC, CH2M Hill, Cisco Systems Inc., Comcast, CSG Systems International, Deliotte & Touche, Denver Management Advisors, Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman PC, Margot and Allan Frank, Galloway Group, Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, Graebel Companies, Barbara Grogan, HealthOne, Highpointe Conference Resort/Landmark Properties, The Integer Group, Johnson & Wales University, Jones International, Kaiser Permanente, The Kenneth Kendal King Foundation, Harold Kunz, MediaNews Group, Mutual of America, National Western Stock Show/Hutchinson Western, Neiman Marcus, Northrop Grumman, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Bryan Pulte, Qwest Communications, Robinson Dairy, Saunders Construction, Starz Entertainment Group, Storage Tek, UMB Bank, W.G. Nielsen and Co., Western Industrial Contractors, Whiting Petroleum, Worldwide Rental Services.

Auctioneer: Chuck Bohn

Quote of the evening: "So many people have hardships through no fault of their own, and VOA is there to help." Asha Blake

Menu: Crisp wedge of baby Iceberg lettuce topped with crisp strips of apple-wood smoked bacon; grilled Ridgefield tenderloin; gourmet Texas toast & garlic bread baguettes; rhubarb & strawberry cobbler.

Attendance: 1,100

Attire: Black Tie Western

Special Thanks: Lee Greenwood; Barry and Arlene Hirschfeld, A.B. Hirschfeld Press; Murray Englander, A Custom Look; Altitude; Elizabeth Byrnes Crony,; BJ Dyer, Bouquets; Dr. Gregory Buford, Center for Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery; Colorado National Guard; Corrine Brown, Colorado Expressions; Buck Boze, Coors Brewing Co.; Joe Ellis & Pam Krotchko, Denver Broncos; Kristin Stork & Tracy Ulmer, Denver Newspaper Agency; Suzanne Brown, Joanne Davidson, Bill Husted, Denver Post; Sharon Magness Blake, David Alexander, Larry DiPasquale, Wesley Guzman, Staff, Epicurean Catering; Ray Evernham, Evernham Motorsports; Sandee & Aaron LaPedis, Fascination St. Gallery; Jeff Potter, Tom Allee, Andrew Hudson, Frontier Airlines; Nancy and Richard Gooding; Yvonne & Bill McCallum, Great West Life Assurance Co.; Hertz Car Rentals; Michael Pollak, Steven Rosdal, Hyde Park Jewelers; International Jet; Deb Dowling Canino, Kroenke Sports; Jim Maetzold; Ernie Blake, Sharon Magness Blake, Jim Costello, Rich Jacks, Cindy Rawley, Lynn Williams, Magness Blake; Gayle Walker, McCormick Tribune Foundation; Mike Durkin, Jan Kelly, Mike Thompson, Mile High United Way; Pat Grant, Marv Witt, National Western Stock Show Assoc.; Christel Dikeman, Nancy Sagar, Staff, Neiman Marcus; Troy Guard, Leigh Sullivan, nine75; Lt. Governor Jane Norton; Opera Shop; John Quaiel; Leslie Kennedy, Penny Parker, Dahlia Weinstein, Rocky Mountain News; Cheryl & Larry Romrell; Bob Lepisto, SeaDream Yacht Club; Silver Cloud Valet; Sue Alexander Simos; Southern Wine and Spirits; Bill Thatch Photography; The Sky's the Limit; Nancy Lamb Thompson; Matt Tynan, Sean Tynan, Tynan Nissan; The Venetian Hotel; Susan Stiff, Westin Westminster Hotel; Glory Weisberg, The Villager.

Hors D'Oeuvres:: Ancho Dusted Chicken Satay, Veal Risotto Balls, Brie En Bouche, Artichoke and Sun Dried Tomato Wonton, Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

Florist: Bouquets


Event Coordinator: Michael James

Planning Committee: Stars & Spurs Ticket Chairs: Adrienne and Jack Fitzgibbons, Sandee and Aaron LaPedis; Committee: Margrit and Peter Aeby, Angela and Joe Alexis, Sherrye Berger, Debbie and Nick Bograkos, Tangy and Brad Buchanan, Cindi and Keith Burge, Aimee and Dan Caplis, Pam and Ed Diamond, Artemis and Leo Donian, Vicki Dow, Stephen Edmonds, Judge Bob Fullerton and Beverlee Henry, Sharon and Ted Whiton Gelt, Linda and Leo Goto, Lynne Hamstra, Pat and Lou Jahade, Gail and George Johnson, Rollie Jordan, Martha Kelce, Judy and Charles McNeil, Judith Ann Newman and Jim Biem, Louise and Scott Richardson, Pam Ruschmeyer and Corey Helme, Sarah and Stan Sena, Herminia Vigil, Grayson Walden, Lisa and Carl Williams; Young Professionals Chairs: Krista and Dr. Gregory Buford; Elizabeth Byrnes Crony; Committee: Susan Bain and Darren Schmidt; Amy Forey Burgett and Tom Burgett, Kimberly Porterfield, Rachel Werner

Board of Directors: Chairman Bryan J. Pulte; Immediate Past Chairman Barbara Grogan; President and CEO Dianna L. Kunz; Vice Chairman Dave Rye; Secretary Myrna Mourning; Treasurer Bob Bardwell; Carl Barnhill, Susan Barnhill, Dean Boosalis, Steve Brett, Mark Carleton, Phyllis Coors, Mark Cordova, Dianne Eddolls, Samuel Freeman, Stacia B. Freimuth, Joe Hodas, Carol James, Paul M. Keebler, Jerome Kern, David Kikumoto, Jim Maetzold, Sharon Magness Blake, Kalleen Malone, Julie McCallister, Terry Nimnicht, Kate Paul, Morris W. Price, Jr., Patricia Robinson, Larry Romrell, Don Shek, Mike Sweeney, Terri Tochihara Dirks, Stephen Tucker, Hermina Vigil on the Volunteers of America Guild.

Blacktie Photos by: Pamela Cress

 Medal of Honor medal recipients and extraordinary gentlemen Peter Lemon, left, Drew Dix and George Sakato
Medal of Honor medal recipients and extraordinary gentlemen Peter Lemon, left, Drew Dix and George Sakato

Pamela Cress

Leather and lace and boots and fringe: everywhere you looked, there were sharp- looking people getting ready to kick up their heels at the VOA's 12th Western Fantasy Dinner.

Guests started arriving early and strolled down the steps of the National Western Stock Show arena through lighted arches, descending into a Western wonderland of glitter and panache.

Sharon Magness Blake greeted guests in a beautiful wine-colored lace gown. Accompanying her were gala chairs Kristina and Jay Davidson in spiffy Western Blacktie garb and eyes twinkling. It wasn't long before they were surrounded by well-heeled guests that came out on this nippy October night to support the programs of the Volunteers of America, and three funds of the McCormick Tribune Foundation: Post-News Charities, Colorado Avalanche Community Fund, and WB2 Gives. This is the first time for an event of this magnitude for these foundations, and is a first anywhere across the United States.

Those who chose to go "gold-digging" purchased a bucket of sand for $75 (two for $125), and hoped there would be a gold nougat or a prize gift star in the middle. The star prizes meant they won a piece of jewelry from Hyde Park Jewelers displayed in a lighted case, but no one went away empty-handed, as Lee Greenwood CDs were handed out to those star-less.

As the jovial crowd chatted and moved to their tables, mistress and master of ceremonies Asha Blake and Ernie Bjorkman of WB2 News, took the stage and introduced some instrumental people to say a few words, including Frontier Airlines President and CEO Jeff Potter (one of the corporate chairs), and Bryan Pulte, Chairman of the Volunteers of America Board.

A salute to Colorado's heroes began with Brigadier General Steve Ritchie taking the stage. During Southeast Asia combat in 1972, then Captain Ritchie became the only American pilot in history to down five MIG-21s, a record that has yet to be equaled. His decorations include Air Force Cross (our nation's second highest award), four Silver Stars, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 25 Air Medals. General Ritchie began his Air Force career at the Air Force Academy in the class of 1964 and was a starting halfback for the Falcons in the 1963 Gator Bowl.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to three Medal of Honor recipients and special guests of the evening:

s/Sgt. Drew Dennis Dix, who led a rescue mission in the Chau Phu in Viet Nam, saving the lives of 14 United States and free world citizens. His personal heroic actions also resulted in 14 confirmed Viet Cong killed in action, possibly 25 more, the capture of 20 prisoners and 15 weapons.

Sgt. Peter C. Lemon, who used hand grenades to fend off an intensified enemy attack at Fire Support Base Illingworth, used hand-to-hand combat, suffered three rounds of wounds and then stood atop an embankment fully exposed to enemy fire until collapsing from multiple wounds and exhaustion. After regaining consciousness, he refused aid until his more seriously wounded comrades had been evacuated.

Private George T. Sakato personally killed five enemy soldiers and captured four in Biffontaine, France in 1944. He proved to be an inspiration to his squad by taking charge and went on to kill another 12 enemy soldiers and assisted in taking 34 prisoners.

As the salute to these heroic men continued, Sharon Magness Blake rode her horse Thunder into the arena carrying the American Flag, while Lee Greenwood stood on the stage and sang his signature song, "God Bless the USA." It was a moving and emotional tribute.

Volunteers of America President and CEO Dianna Kunz then gave the invocation. Guests then proceeded to feast on a terrific dinner served up by Epicurean Catering, who completed a task nothing short of miraculous in serving up an incredible meal including a melt-in-your-mouth tenderloin steak. A meal that good is difficult to come by, much less with 1,100 dinner companions.

The Humanitarian Award was given to Arlene and Barry Hirschfeld, who tirelessly, generously and consistently give to this community. As the printed program indicated, this passionate couple exemplifies Volunteers of America's mission to reach and uplift all people in a wide range of ways. Arlene served as one of the founding members of Western Fantasy and for years headed up the publicity committee for the gala. Barry has faithfully lent his considerable talents to building a strong corporate and individual donor base for the gala since the beginning, and his company, AB Hirschfeld Press, has generously donated the printing of the program and invitations for the past 12 years. Under their leadership, Western Fantasy topped the $1 million mark for the first time. Arlene and Barry are dearly loved and cherished as extraordinary talented and humble leaders.

A video profiling VOA and including "thank yous" from VOA recipients followed. Gala Chairs Kristina and Jay Davidson stood embracing one another and watched their video being projected to the crowd in which they expressed their pride in working with such a meaningful project and the hope of continued success stories in providing a life-line to those in need.

Auctioneer Chuck Bohn inspired the crowd to bid on some fantastic live auction prizes, including a trip to Superbowl XL in Detroit, donated by Annabel and Pat Bowlen, the Denver Broncos Football Club and United Airlines; an Avalanche Suite donated by Yvonne and Bill McCallum and the Great West Life Assurance Co.; a NASCAR weekend donated by Jim Maetzold, Everenham Sports, Bill Elliott, Frontier Airlines and Hertz Car Rental; a Caribbean Yacht Cruise donated by SeaDream Yacht Club; a 2005 Nissan Sentra donated by Matt and Sean Tynan, Tynan's Nissan and Mile High United Way; a trip to Las Vegas donated by International Jet, the Venetian Hotel, and Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake.

Special attractions of the auction, for the first time ever, were two big and beautiful motorcycles--a 2005 BMW Motorcycle ridden around the arena by Gala Chairs Kristina and Jay Davidson, who looked like they could stay on the bike forever; and a 2005 Harley Davidson, donated and ridden around the arena by Cheryl and Larry Romrell and won by Senior Vice President of Great West Life Assurance Co. George Webb. He will be smiling for the next decade.

As an additional fundraiser, Frontier Airlines provided the cutest stuffed penguins on the face of the earth, for a pledge of $50 (a family of penguins for $200). The crowd quickly snapped up lots of the cute critters as volunteers circled the tables taking pledges.

With the formalities completed, the crowd slipped into party and dance mode as Country Music Association's two-time Male Vocalist of the Year Lee Greenwood showed the crowd why he has been so popular for the past two decades. Greenwood has also won accolades for Song of the Year, for writing his famous "God Bless the U.S.A." that he sang earlier, as well as a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance. Music lovers in the audience were not shy as they immediately came to the area next to the stage to twirl, spin, and kick up their heels in true Western Fantasy style.

All in all, this crowd exemplified the spirit of giving and helping, making this Western Fantasy a reality for those in need.

The mission of the Volunteers of America is to identify and serve the basic needs of the most vulnerable individuals and families in the community. Most recently, VOA affiliates across America helped victims of Hurricane Katrina with housing, medical vans, help for the developmentally disabled, and food and shelter. VOA's goals are well-conveyed in the following excerpt from one of their success stories: "When the waters recede and the first responders are gone and the immediate crisis has become an on-going struggle, VOA will be there--helping people get back on their feet. They will provide food, shelter, employment, care and comfort. They are working on restoring hope."

VOA has been helping people for a long time. Over one hundred years ago, a handful of inspired individuals began a journey that continues today. This journey brought them to the extremes of poverty, into the world of the abused, the destitute, the hungry, in to a world that lacked both material and spiritual comfort. These dedicated individuals, known as the Volunteers of America, rolled up their sleeves and created shelter for homeless women and children and served meals throughout the year so that no one would hunger.

In 1896, under the guidance of Volunteers of America co-founders Maud and Ballington Booth, the VOA Colorado Branch was founded with its first programs in Boulder, Leadville, Pueblo and, soon after, Denver. By the turn of the century VOA soup kitchens fed the hungry and sleeping space was provided for the homeless. Needy children were treated to festivities on each holiday and job opportunities were created for the unemployed.

As the nation moved into the 20th century, so did the Volunteers of America. Programs addressing the needs of an aging population were started, including the Meals on Wheels Program. Group homes, transitional living programs and shelters for battered women and their children were also established.

This year, more than 6,200 dedicated volunteers helped VOA staff provide critical and life-saving services to over 370,000 men, women, and children throughout Colorado - doing whatever it takes to renew the spirits of people in need, Volunteers of America in Colorado helps countless people through several divisions: Nutrition, the Safety of Seniors Handyman Program, the Junior Volunteer Program, the Foster Grandparent Program, and the RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program), just for starters.

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