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April 05, 2006 - Bruce Benson Roasted to Well-Done Perfection

What: I Have A Dream Foundation Annual Roast

Where: Hyatt Regency Denver

When: April 5, 2006

Time: 6:00 p.m. reception; 7:00 p.m. dinner and roast

Ticket Prices: $250 individual; sponsor tables $2,500-$10,000

Beneficiary: Colorado I Have A Dream Foundation, At Risk Youth

Honoree(s): Bruce Benson

EMCEE: Don Elliman

Honorary Chairperson(s): U.S. Senator Wayne Allard; Congressman Bob Beauprez; Hank Brown; Mayor John Hickenlooper; Richard D. Lamm; Governor Bill Owens

Co-Chair(s): Elaine and Steve Berman; Maria Garcia Berry; Pete Coors; Cort Dietler; Mary and Don Elliman; Charlie Gallagher; Jeanne and Steve Kaplan; Molly and Bill Mosher; Martha Records and Rich Rainaldi; Carl Williams

Executive Director: Mary Hanewall

Committee Members: Ticket Committee: Steve Bachar, Jackie Berardini, Rob Cohen, Pat Cortez, Steve Farber, George Flanders, Lori Fox, John Freyer, Noel Ginsburg, Pat Grant, Happy Haynes, Barry Hirschfeld, Michael Hobbs, Bob Hochstadt, Tracy Huggins, Steve Kaufmann, Robert L. Loeb Jr., David Kenney, Joan McDermott, John Osborn, Jack Overstreet, Dick Saunders, Ted Trimpa, Steve Wenner, Pat Wiesner. Auction committee: Beth Hornstein, Devany McNeill, Devra Ochs, Imelda Unibe, Emily Walker, Volunteers from the Gap

Staff: Brenda Doyle, Project Coordinator; Darcie Ezell, Volunteer Coordinator; Amy Farnan, Development Director; Mike Keglovits, Project Coordinator; Christiane Laracuente, Project Coordinator; Erin Larrabee, Project Coordinator; Allison Lehrmann, Community Service Fellow; Diana Luckman, Community Service Fellow; Laurie Maves, Program Director; Chris Meyer, Community Service Fellow; Amanda Newport, Community Service Fellow; Peter Noel, Project Coordinator; Kendra Penry, Community Service Fellow; Lee Ann Reich, Community Service Fellow; Donita Self, Officer Manager; Sara Symons, Project Coordinator; Brittany Thue, Community Service Fellow; Emily Walker, Development VISTA; Sarah Wilczak, Community Service Fellow

Libations: Mondavi Private Select Chardonnay, Knife and Fork Shiraz

Catering: Hyatt Regency Denver

Sponsors: Platinum: Joel and Carol Farkas, Diane and Charles P. Gallagher & Family, Jack Overstreet, Kristin and Blair Richardson, Lisa & Carl Williams; Gold: Coors Brewing Company, Denver Public Schools Foundation, Gary Williams Energy Corporation, Tim Gill and Scott Miller, Key Bank, MDC Holdings, Ed McVaney, Monfort Family Foundation/Colorado Rockies, Morrison Foerster Foundation & Steve and Patty Kaufmann, Devra and Michael Ochs, Robinson Dairy, St. Anselm Exploration Company, Pat Wiesner

Quote of the evening: "We can't guarantee a child's dream but we can give them a head start by giving them an education."

Menu: Mixed field greens, pinon coffee marinated beef ribeye, gold whipped potatoes, asparagus, grilled red pepper, double fudge torte

Attendance: 800

Attire: Business attire

Special Thanks: Hyatt Regency Denver , Devany McNeill, Don Elliman, Marcy Benson, Emily Walker, Devra Ochs, Bud's House of Rose, the Winelady Cherryl Andrews


Event Coordinator: Mary Hanewall

Board of Directors: Ann Cisneros, Lindquist & Vennum, PLLP, President; Robert L. Loeb, Jr., Fairfield and Woods, P.C., Vice President; Stephen L. Wenner, Wenner Silvestain & Co., Treasurer; Lawrence A. Manzanares, Denver District Court Judge, Secretary; Gary Mitchell, Anton Collins Mitchell LLP, Past President; Rob L. Alvarado, Palo Alto Inc.; Douglas A. Andrews, Apartment Realtor Advisors; Tamara Banks, City of Denver; Jackie Berardini, Kaiser-Hill Company, LLC; Lark Birdsong, Pioneer Fund; Tammy Booth, State Farm Insurance; Juan B. Botero, ENTECON; Ryan K. Charp, AT&T Corporation; Allan Cohen, Psychology Practice; Robert L. Cohen, IMA, Inc.; Cole Finegan, Denver City Attorney; George J. Flanders, Lockheed Martin; Michael B. Hobbs, Key Bank; Robert W. Hochstadt, GHP Horwath, P.C.; Tracy Huggins, Denver Urban Renewal Authority; Sonny Jackson, Denver Police Department Info. Office; Grant Jones, Metro Denver Black Church Initiative; Stephen H. Kaplan, Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLP; Steven M. Kaufmann, Morrison & Foerster LLP; Gregory Kolomitz, CRL Associates; John A. Lanning, University of Colorado at Denver; Robert L. Loeb, Jr., Fairfield and Woods, P.C.; Anabel C. McHugh, McHugh Family Foundation; Anita Padilla-Fitzgerald, MegaStar Financial Corp.; Laurence A. Price, Lockheed Martin Astronautics; Richard Rainaldi, CiviCore; Chris Romer, JP Morgan Chase; Justin L. Roth, DDS, private practice; Alan Seiver, Grubb & Ellis Company; Phillip A. Washington, RTD; Rusty Wehner, CTX Mortgage; Rochelle Williams, Dreamer Alumna

Blacktie Photos by: Pamela Cress

 Lacey Montez , a recipient of this year's Summit Award, with her sponsor and nominating supporter, Brendan Doyle.
Lacey Montez , a recipient of this year's Summit Award, with her sponsor and nominating supporter, Brendan Doyle.

Pamela Cress

People generally don't recall much about a candidate's bids for a public office, but the 800 friends that came out on April 5th, to roast Bruce Benson seemed to remember everything about his campaign and did not resist the urge to needle him about it.

"Bruce wanted to run for governor in the worst way," said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, one of the people roasting Benson at the sixth annual benefit for the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation (CIHAD). “And he did." And so the barbs and gibes continued, as the power crowd gathered and networked at the Hyatt Regency Downtown.

If you were a democrat you kept that mostly to yourself as the largely Republican supporters mingled and mixed, looking at silent auction items and enjoying the early spring evening. Of course the fact that Benson was a four-time chairman of the Colorado Republican Party had something to do with it.

As guests sat down to their ribeye dinner scrumptiously prepared by the Hyatt catering staff, everyone was anxious to hear the jokes and comments for this year's roast, judging from the performances of the previous five years that this successful event has been produced. Supporters didn't forget the ultimate reason they came, however, in helping at-risk Denver students in the CIHAD program, as was evidenced by the record $225,000 raised by this event.

The program began with the introduction of this year's Summit Award recipients: Lacey Montez of Thornton, who has overcome much adversity in order to graduate from Arvada High school this May. She suffered the death of her mother and grandmother at an early age and was raised by her grandfather. She has been a part of the CIHAD Dreamer program since she was in 4th grade.

Corey Morgan, graduating from East High School this May, was the second Summit Award recipient and lives in Five Points. He also has been a part of the CIHAD Dreamer program since the 4th grade. Corey told the crowd that, "Without CIHAD, we'd be in the streets and probably part of a gang. We definitely wouldn't be graduating from high school."

Both students get an extra $1,000 toward their future I Have a Dream post-secondary educational assistance.

There were two great live auction packages to be snagged by the crowd, including a shop and spa package and a 16-person box at an Avalanche game, complete with an autographed Avalanche jersey, brought by Children's Hospital's Missy Christiansen, whose brother is Avalanche Dan Hinote.

The crowd gave a standing ovation as Bruce Benson took his spot on the stage and got ready for the barrage. First up was Governor Bill Owens, who offered such gems as "we found people from both sides of the aisle at the Capitol ready to sully Bruce's name." He told a story of visiting the Benson Mineral Group recently, where he said the employees told him, "We wish Bruce was the Pope; then we'd only have to kiss his ring." He closed with a story about past CIHAD roast recipient Steve Farber offering Benson $10,000 to say John Kerry was a saint. "And wouldn't you know it, Benson took him up on it. He told his fellow Republicans "John Kerry is a saint...when you compare him to Ted Kennedy."

Benson and the attendees were then treated to a video comprised of Benson's old friends and acquaintances from the oil business in Kansas "back in the day." One seasoned fellow reminiscing about Benson said, "Word got back to eastern Kansas that Benson was running for Governor. And he darn near won!!"

Hickenlooper was next and started off by saying, "What do you say about a person who's loved and revered by everyone? Well, he's not the man we're honoring here tonight." He continued to rib his friend but ended up by saying, "thank you for a wonderful friendship."

A video was shown of Senator Wayne Allard, who said he wanted to attend to support Benson. "I asked Bill Frist if I could have a 'get out of the Senate for a day free card' but when he found out it was for you, he said no."

Emcee Don Elliman then read two letters that were sent congratulating Benson, the first from "#41, George Bush and Barbara Bush" and "#43 George Bush and Laura Bush." The crowd was rolling in the aisles as Elaine Gantz Berman, Mary Elliman and Bill Mosher took the stage in doctor's garb to give Benson his medical "prognosis," part of which was "you should have a selective colonoscopy to continue dispensing that Republican bull with no problem."

The last roaster was Benson's wife, Marcy "you bet your pre-nup" Benson. She had a great time reminiscing about certain highlights in Benson's life, including being "a kindergarten dropout" and being a "rowdy liberal" in high school. She got serious at the end, though, ending with, "If you are lucky enough to be cared for by Bruce Benson, it's a wonderful thing."

Benson had his time for rebuttal, which he kept short by saying "thank you for this mass humiliation," and "revenge is sweet, and I'm a very, very patient person." He closed by reminding everyone once again about the kids and the commitment to help them become successful. He didn't speak long into the evening; after all, it is a school night.

The mission of Colorado "I Have A Dream" Foundation (CIHAD) is to encourage the 100 percent high school graduation of a specific group of potentially at-risk students, by providing them with academic assistance, life skills development, positive role models, and other forms of support throughout grades 3-12, culminating in an academic or vocational scholarship upon successfully completing all high school requirements.

The mission began on June 25, 1981, when New York businessman Eugene Lang returned to the elementary school he had attended more than 50 years earlier—P.S. 121 in East Harlem. He had come to deliver a speech to the graduating sixth graders. Lang’s intention had been to give them a standard message: work hard and you’ll succeed. But, after struggling to get their attention, Lang impulsively made an extraordinary offer. He promised the 61 children college scholarships if they completed high school. After making that promise, however, Lang was discouraged to learn from the school principal that at least three-quarters of these students would be dropouts—and of those with high school diplomas, maybe one or two might qualify for college.

So, Lang went further: he helped and supported the children throughout the years that separated them from high school graduation. He hired a local social worker to help the children stay in school. With the guidance of education and social science professionals, his effort evolved into the “I Have A Dream” Program. The P.S. 121 sixth graders became the first “Dreamers”.

In August 1985—after four years—all of Lang’s Dreamers were still in school. He began responding to news media inquiries in the hope that others would be inspired to replicate what he had done. It worked. A front-page story in The New York Times and a segment on 60 Minutes led to widespread national attention and interest. Thousands of inquiries began to pour in, and in early 1986 Lang organized the National "I Have A Dream®" Foundation to help launch a new generation of "I Have A Dream®" projects.

In 1987, Colorado "I Have A Dream" co-founder Chris Romer attended a speech by Eugene Lang. Inspired by Lang’s vision, Romer dreamt of beginning a program similar to Lang’s in Denver. They established the Colorado "I Have A Dream" Foundation, “adopted” a class of 61 kids, and set their dreams to work.

CIHAD fulfills this mission by adopting classes of students (called Dreamers) that consist of entire grade levels from Denver elementary schools or entire age groups from Denver housing developments. After the classes are adopted in the third grade, CIHAD stays with them through the completion of high school. Each class is adopted in partnership with a class sponsor who provides partial underwriting to it for this entire period of time, and also provides hands-on involvement with the Dreamers. Project Coordinators are assigned to each class, and these full-time CIHAD staff members are assisted by a team of volunteers, Community Service Fellows, and work-study students in providing the Dreamers with year-round programming and support. When the Dreamers graduate, they receive a partial scholarship to attend the college or vocational school of their choice.

CIHAD provides the Dreamers with a comprehensive dropout prevention program that includes one-on-one academic assistance, college visits and college preparation activities, group tutoring, individualized case management, homework help, trips to cultural and sporting events, community service and service learning projects, fun and recreational reward trips and mentoring.

Over the course of its history, CIHAD has worked with over 450 youth from ten adopted classes. These ten classes from the Denver Public School System include four that have already graduated high school, and six currently in the program. The first two Dreamer classes graduated high school in 1995 and 1998, with graduation rates of 87 and 83 percent-nearly double the rate of their counterparts who were not Dreamers. The Ginsburg Family Class of 1999-2004 turned a 90 percent dropout rate into a 92 percent graduation rate (click here for more), and the Donnell-Kay Foundation Class of 2003 had an unprecedented 95 percent rate.

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