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October 28, 2006 - Western Fantasy's Dancin' & Diamonds

What: VOA's Western Fantasy Gala

Where: The Western Complex

When: October 28th, 2006

Time: 5:45 p.m. cocktails, 7:00 p.m. dinner

Beneficiary: Volunteers of America, Post-News Charities Fund, and CW2Gives

Honoree(s): Dean Singleton, Humanitarian Award 2006, and Charles Moss Duke, Jr.,

Founders: Sharon Magness Blake and Jean Galloway

Co-Chair(s): Yvonne and Bill McCallum

Committee Members: Corporate Commitee: Chairs--Tom Marsh, Lockheed Martin; Jeff Potter, Frontier Airlines; Members--Patrick Beirne, Pulte Homes; Sharon Magness Blake; Mark Carleton, Liberty Media Corp.; Karin Catton, Johns-Manville; Steve Farber, Brownstein, Hyatt Farber LLC; Dave Graebel, Graebel Companies; Pat Grant, National Western Stock Show; A. Barry Hirschfeld, National/Hirschfeld; Andrew Hudson, Frontier Airlines; C. David Kikumoto, Denver Management Advisors; David Mandarich, MDC Holdings; Bill McCallum; Evan McCollum, Lockheed Martin; Kate Paul, Delta Dental; Bryan J. Pulte; Pat Robinson, MediaNews Group; Charlie and Anita Russell; Dick Saunders, Saunders Construction

President(s): Dianna L. Kunz, and CEO, VOA

Staff: Mary Beth Heller, VP of Administrative Services; Erin Cruse, Director of Volunteer Services; John Drengacz, Director of Building Services; John Gamble, Director of Western Colorado Services; Michael James, Director of Development; Nolan Knox, Director of Nutrition Services; Virdell Miller, Associate Division Director of Nutrition Services; Lindi Sinton, Director of Youth, Residential and Emergency Services; Diane Stobnicke, Associate Division Director Northern Colorado Services; Anna Strobl, Director of Affordable Housing Services; Jim White, Manager of Community Affairs

Catering: Epicurean Catering

Music: Trisha Yearwood and Lee Greenwood

Sponsors: Panning for Gold Sponsor: Hyde Park Jewelers New Millennium Partners: Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake, Liberty Media, Yvonne and Bill McCallum, Paragon Ranch Diamond Stars: Phyllis Coors, Great West Life Assurance Company, Hyde Park Jewelers, Starz Encore, Wells Fargo, Delta Dental, Lockheed Martin, Whiting Petroleum Corporation, and Jones International Gold Nuggets: Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake, Colorado Business Bank, Comcast, Coors Brewing Company, The Denver Broncos Football Club, Epicurean Catering, Frontier Airlines, Fujitsu Consulting, Barbara and Ed Greene, JF Companies, LLC, KPMG, LLC, National/ Hirschfeld, SAP Americas, LLC, Saunders Construction, John & Anna Sie Family Foundation, Westin Westminster-Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Silver Spurs: Janet and Eula Adams, Amber Homes, ARC Thrift Stores, Ball Corporation, Susan and Carl Barnhill, The Barton Family Foundation, Bear Creek Asset Management, BKD Ltd., Brownstein Hyatt & Farber PC, The Colorado Rockies, Caryn and Brian Deevy, Denver Management Advisors, Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner and Hottman PC, First American State Bank, Forest Oil, Falloway Group/La Nouvelle Fine Cleaners, GEM Resourcing, Graebel Companies, Barbara Grogan, HealthOne, Hitachi Consulting, Georgia and Walt Imhoff, The Integer Group, International Harvester, Carol and Brad James, Harold Kunz, The Kentwood Company, Lockton Companies, MDC/Richmond American Homes, Meadow Homes, Media News Group, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft, Mutual of America, National Western Events Center, Neiman Marcus, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Pulte Homes, Bryan Pulte, William Pulte, Qwest, Robinson Dairy, Rockmont Capital Partners, Inc., Statera, Teammates for Kids, UMB Bank, University of Colorado Hospital, University of Denver, Western Industrial Contractors, WG Nielsen & Company, Wild Oats Market, Lisa and Carl Williams, Worldwide Rental Services

Menu: Baby iceberg wedge salad with grape tomatoes, Bleu cheese crumbles, Sharon's homemade corn relish with chopped apple smoked bacon bits and balsamic vinaigrette; grilled western beef tenderloin with bourbon BBQ demi, mashed sweet potatoes, tri-colored roasted baby carrots and beer-battered onion rings; western French loaf; old-fashioned chocolate cake with a Ganache center served with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate star

Attire: Blacktie western

Board of Directors: VOA Colorado Branch Board of Directors: Bryan J. Pulte, Barbara Grogan, Dianna L. Kunz, Dave Rye, Myrna Mourning, Robert F. Bardwell, Jr., Carl Barnhill, Susan Barnhill, Patrick Bierne, Dean Boosalis, Steve Brett, Rick Bruno, Karin Catton, Mark Carleton, Mark Cardova, Peggy Driscoll, Dianne Eddolls, Samuel Freeman, Stacia Freimuth, Joe Hodas, Carol James, C. David Kikumoto, Jim Maetzold, Sharon Magness Blake, Kalleen Malone, Manuel Martinez, Ed McBrien, Vivian Mount, Kathryn Paul, Morris W. Price, Jr., Glenn Rippey, Patricia Robinson, Larry Romrell, Don Shek, Mike Sweeney, Terri Tochihara-Dirks, and Herminia Vigil VOA Colorado Board: Chairman: Freya Brier, Vice Chairman: Don Harlan, Secretary: Ron Simpson, Treasurer: Don Shek, Directors: Blaine Chase, Dianna L. Kunz, Harry Gorham, and John Herbolich

Steering Committee: David Alexander, David Alexander Design; Tom Allee, Frontier Airlines; Carolynn Bond, RE/MAX International; Cindi Burge; Elizabeth Byrnes Crony; Kristina Davidson; Christel Dikeman, Neiman Marcus; Adrienne Ruston Fiztgibbons; Stacia Freimuth, Colorado Business Bank; Sharon Whiton Gelt; Barbara Green, Barbara Greene Design; Kathy Hatch, Colorado Crush; Gail Johnson; Rachel Werner Lubeck; Jim Maetzold, Worldwide Rental Services; Beverly Martinez, CW2; Brandis Becky Pelletier, brandis b; Kael Robinson, La Nouvelle Fine Cleaners; Lyn Schaffer; Susan Stiff, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide; Nancy Lamb Thompson; Tracy Ulmer, Denver Newspaper Agency; Faye Washington; Toni Whaley, Fullerton Company; John Zakhem, Zinc Financial LLC. Stars and Spurs and Young Professionals Ticket Committee: Brandis Becky Pelletier, Stacia Freimuth, Rachel Werner Lubeck and John Zakhem, chairs; Cindi and Keith Burge, Donna Crafton, Elizabeth Byrnes Crony and Ed Crony, Adrienne and Jack Fitzgibbons, Sharon and Ted Gelt, Lynne Hamstra, Gail and George Johnson, Rollie Jordan, Kael Robinson, Sarah and Stan Sena, committee members.

Blacktie Photos by: Pam Cress and Chelsea Wyatt

 Lt. Governor Jane Norton, center, was honored to stand in the company of so many honored astronauts: from left, Bruce McCandless, Dan Brandenstein, Brian Duffy, Scott Carpenter and Charlie Duke
Lt. Governor Jane Norton, center, was honored to stand in the company of so many honored astronauts: from left, Bruce McCandless, Dan Brandenstein, Brian Duffy, Scott Carpenter and Charlie Duke

by Chelsea Wyatt
Colorado is the heart of the old West; Buffalo Bill rode and rests here, many of our Governors have been ranchers, and we are the home of the nationally recognized Westernaires. But no event tops the celebration of true Western spirit like the Volunteers of America's Western Fantasy Gala. This is the premier event of the season! The theme was especially poignant this year, as pointed out by the program: "we seek inspiration from those men and women who risk their lives reaching into the darkness and cold of space: our 21st Century explorers, American's astronauts." It was an honor to be in the same room (although a very large room) with astronauts Charlie Duke, Scott Carpenter, Brian Duffy, Dan Brandenstein and Bruce McCandless.

There is only one mascot allowed to actually be ridden into a non-profit event as swanky as this one, and that is Thunder. Sharon Magness Blake rode into the arena carrying the American Flag, accompanied by her husband Ernie Blake, while Lee Greenwood walked towards her through the crowd, singing, "I'm Proud to Be An American." It was such a moving and emotional tribute that the majority of the crowd joined in, many of them even removing their Stetsons!

Volunteers of America President and CEO Dianna Kunz then gave the invocation, thanking everyone for coming, thanking the Lord for the power to bring everyone together this evening, and praying that the evening would lead to even more aid for those who need it most in Colorado. The crowd bowed their heads in silence before the meal.  

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. The meal finished with a delicious and devilish chocolate cake, which was a great way to top off the amazing feat of a gourmet dinner for a roomful of 1,360 of your closest friends!

This was the largest year for the event ever, with more attendees and over 200 volunteers. The evening was certainly a success. The Denver Newspaper Agency's Dean Singleton was awarded the Humanitarian Award, an honor to recognize the countless hours, tireless commitment, and millions of dollars given back to the community via grants and as well as donated ad space. Post-News Charities has distributed more than $1.6 million to Volunteers of America since 1999 for human service programs, and that is just one of the many signature events supported by Post-News. Amazingly, a full third of the Colorado VOA's budget comes from the Western Fantasy Gala. The event has raised $14 million since its inception.

Contributing to its success was a bidding battle for one of the first silent auction items, a trip to Superbowl XLI in Miami Florida, to watch the Broncos' potential third victory. The trip, including a flight to Miami, a stay at an NFL hotel, and of course, tickets to the main event, was donated by Annabel and Pat Bowlen, the Denver Football Club, and United Airlines. The bidding ran up to an amazing $35,000, and at the end of the night, it was Trisha Yearwood herself who took home the prize, assuring all of the Denverites that she can't wait to watch the Broncos.  

To top off an auction that has netted Volunteers of America the best results ever, Lee Greenwood donated his Cannonball saxophone, which netted $15,000, far more than he had paid for it. Other items included a Viva Las Vegas trip, a golf package, A Delight for the Senses, a much-coveted Mediterranean Seadream Yacht Cruise, and A Year of Purely Colorado complete with breakfast with Ernie Blake!

The evening couldn't have been topped off more successfully than being entertained by Grammy Award winner Trisha Yearwood, who demonstrated her famous "full-bodied, muscular vocals with bulls-eye tonal control, wide-open volume and dynamic range."

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. VOA affiliates across America have even 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 100 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, into 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.

The evening was truly a success, and satisfied Coloradoans left at the end of the evening in their fringe and leather knowing that they had helped put food on the table, and so much more for some of Colorado's and the nation's most vulnerable. Be sure to join next year for the event of the season!

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