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November 19, 2005 - 'Tis the Season at Annual Festival of Trees

What: 27th Annual Festival of Trees Holiday Gala

Where: Wildlife Experience Museum, Parker

When: November 19, 2005

Beneficiary: ArtReach, Inc.

Mistress of Ceremonies: Bertha Lynn, Denver's 7 KMGH

Honoree(s): Marilyn Dana, recipient of the Ginger Merelli Special Event Volunteer Award

Presenting Sponsor(s): RE/MAX International

Gala Chairperson(s): Elena VanDecar

Honorary Chairperson(s): Mayor John Hickenlooper

Executive Director: Jil Rosentrater

Committee Members: Sponsorships: Phyllis Hammond and Tricia Schmuki; Designers and Gift Baskets: Karla Johnson-Grimes and Kari Stutz; Marketing: Barbara Reasoner; Volunteers: Tami Lack; Santa's Breakfast: Connie Wyckoff; Jingle Bell Jazz: Karla Johnson-Grimes; Logistics: Jil Rosentrater

Catering: Wildlife Experience

Entertainment: ArtReach Artists showcased Hip Hop dance, storytelling and drumming

Of note: Dozens of Christmas trees, wreaths, swags and mantlepieces

Sponsors: Santa’s Breakfast: FirstBank Holding Company and David L. Tandy Foundation; Jingle Bell Jazz Sponsors: KPMG LLP and jazz89 KUVO; Community: City of Lone Tree; In-Kind Media: Denver’s 7 KMGH, The Denver Post, KOSI Radio, jazz89 KUVO, Colorado Expression Magazine, Colorado Parent Magazine, The Villager, Colorado Community Newspaper; Holiday Tree: Associates of Otolaryngology, KPMG, Northern Trust Bank, Stawiarski & Associates, The Urman Company, Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, Marty and Joe Davis; Gala Table: Beco Equipment, Boston Market, Cimarex Energy, Honnen Equipment, Linhart McClain Finlon PR, M.D.C. Holdings/Richmond American Homes, Wells Fargo Bank NA-Commercial Banking, Mary and Tom Meade; Special ArtReach Friends: US Bank, Student Movers, The Wildlife Experience, SCFD; Gift to Agency: First Data/Western Union, Joan and Ron Maclachlan

Auctioneer:, Boulder Auction

Attendance: 250

Attire: Festive Holiday, backtie optional

Information: Please call 303.433.2882 or visit

Blacktie Photos by: Elizabeth Byrnes Crony

 Karye Wilhelm, former Board President, left, Ginger Merelli Award Honoree Marilyn Dana, Board Member and Volunteer Chair Tami Lack and Board Member and Santa's Breakfast Chair Connie Wyckoff
Karye Wilhelm, former Board President, left, Ginger Merelli Award Honoree Marilyn Dana, Board Member and Volunteer Chair Tami Lack and Board Member and Santa's Breakfast Chair Connie Wyckoff

Elizabeth Byrnes Crony

‘Tis the season…at the 27th Annual Festival of Trees Holiday Gala, a benefit for ArtReach, the holidays were ‘kicked-off’ at The Wildlife Experience, presented by RE/MAX International, sponsors for the third year in a row.

Chaired by Elena VanDecar of RE/MAX International and Honorary Chair Mayor John Hickenlooper, the glittering evening of fun was the start of the annual festival this year and will include an eleven-day silent auction, and conclude with a Santa’s Breakfast and a new event, Jingle Bell Jazz with Hazel Miller on December 1st.

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 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.

The mission was spotlighted at the gala and incorporated as the entertainment. Guests were better able to understand what the kids experience through the Arts Benefiting Kids program. Ricki Harada, born in southern Japan, began his dance career in 1986 as a funky jazz dancer in a professional company while studying ballet, mime and traditional Japanese dance, all of which he incorporates into his unique style. The Artistic Director of Soul Motion, he and his group performed the “Tokyo Tribe” and “Usherism.”

During dinner, guests were treated to the storytelling of Marta Barnard, a professional actor, director and choreographer. She brought the story “Winter Solstice” to life with the assistance of audience members. After dinner, Bertha Lynn assisted with the live auction which included bowling with the Mayor, Eric Matelski’s painting he had created during the cocktail hour, a foursome package at the Sanctuary Golf Course, tea with the first lady and gold at the Country Club at Castle Pines.

Dan Egger-Belandria has a North American and Venezuelan background and his primary musical inspiration is rooted in Afro-Cuban and Caribbean tradition. In addition to performing a as musician, he also uses his percussion skills in workshops to promote multiculturalism and diversity. The lights went to dark and he created “the rainstorm” through his drumming, complete with a spectacular light show and high arcing sprays of water.

Dozens of trees in various sizes, wreaths, mantle pieces and more holiday décor was set up throughout the entire first level of the Wildlife Museum. Designers and artists, ArtReach agencies and friends of ArtReach designed 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. Each table was also set with unique centerpieces that were created by kids, with the assistance of Carole Campbell and Kathy Davie.

Bertha Lynn of Denver’s 7, the mistress of ceremonies, 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, Marilyn Dana, was chosen for her commitment to the Third Way Center, where Development Director Tami Lack nominated her. “Marilyn is a longtime volunteer and board member and her impact is clearly evident with all she does for us,” said Tami. Third Way is a treatment program for troubled youth and is a member agency of ArtReach. “Marilyn inspires others, motivates staff and volunteers and offers incredible support to the organization during the entire planning process for True Grit, our annual western-themed gala.”

“Thank you so much for this honor,” Marilyn told the guests, “This is a wonderful honor and a nice surprise.” Marilyn was awarded $1,000 for the Third Way Center. 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.

To see the many holiday items up for bid, go to and click on ArtReach, Inc. - ArtReach Festival of Trees to view the over 300 items available. Remember, the online auction will close at 5pm on November 30th and the final bidding at the Jingle Bell Jazz event December 1st, from 6-9pm.

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