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March 19, 2011 - Excelsior! Triumphant!

What: Excelsior's Passport Party: Taste. Travel. Triumph.

Where: Palazzo Verdi
Special Events

When: Saturday, March 19, 2011

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Ticket Prices: $100; $225

Beneficiary: Excelsior Youth Center

Master of Ceremonies: Alan Gionet, CBS4

Honoree(s): Cindy Acree, Rebecca Bell, Ryta Sondergard

Honorary Chairperson(s): Rhonda Vickers

Entertainment: Kusogea Nobi Drum Ensemble; Ron Stierle, German Accordionist; Larry Horyna, Bag Piper; Mary Gottlieb, pianist; Shaolin Hung Mei, Lion Dancers

Sponsors: DIPLOMAT SPONSORS CoBiz Wealth Management, Denver Investments, Land Rover East, Sysco Denver; FREQUENT FLYER SPONSORS: Pinnacol Assurance, Southwest Airlines; IN-KIND SPONSORS: Colorado Homes & Lifestyles, Fastsigns-Denver, Ilona Cherry Creek North, Southern Wine & Spirits, Thurston, Inc.

Auctioneer: Gary Corbett

Menu: International Food Choices

Attire: Cocktail Attire or Touristy Traveler

Information: 303-693-1550

Planning Committee: Co Chairs: Heather Weldon, Jennifer Williams; Tom Aston, Dana Berry, Andrea Carpenter, Gary Corbett, Kim Devigil, Anne Fanganello, Kathy Graveley, Andrea Hair, Bill & Sally Harvey, Cindy Hellgren, Emily Kaiser, Zoanne Kron, Bill & Jackie Lane, Hilary Masell Oswald, Suzanne Mountfort, Lois Paul, Irene Rawlings, Carena Reber, Gregory Sargowicki, Linda Shaw, Erika Van Der Vlugt, Susan Williams, Laurie Wronski

Board of Directors: OPERATIONS BOARD: Jim Peters, Dennis Miceli, Amos Martinez, Bill Gregory, Cynthia Hansen, Richard Jones, Marcia Lujan, Molly Ross, Wendy Warren; FOUNDATION BOARD: Bill Harvey, Lois Paul, Butch Shoup, Jennifer Williams, Dennis Miceli, Mary Shay, Jane Gilbert Johnson, Barbara Schmitt, M. Sean Murphy

Blacktie Photos by: Stacy Ohlsson

 Rhonda Vickers, left, introduced the honorees: Representative Cindy Acree, Ryta Sondergard, and Rebecca Bell
Rhonda Vickers, left, introduced the honorees: Representative Cindy Acree, Ryta Sondergard, and Rebecca Bell

250 supporters filled a festive Palazzo Verdi in Greenwood Village for Excelsior’s 4th Annual Passport Party: a night of Taste, Travel, and Triumph on Saturday, March 19, 2011.

Southwest Airlines employees, as well as costumed board members and volunteers greeted guests as they joined the party. The most popular costumes were that of a pilot, like Gregory Sargowicki, and a retro “stewardess,” like Lois Paul.
A strolling buffet led “travelers” around the world with tastes of Mexico, Italy, China and beyond.
Worldly entertainment kept patrons engaged and fascinated throughout evening: African drummers, Kusogea Nobi Drum Ensemble, German Accordionist Ron Stierle, bagpiper Larry Horyna, pianist Mary Gottlieb, and authentic Lion Dancers of Shaolin Hung Mei.
Every year, Excelsior honors women who have overcome significant challenges to achieve success in their lives. This year, the women included Colorado Representative Cindy Acree, former Excelsior resident Rebecca Bell, and Ryta Sondergard. Each had remarkable stories to tell, and they all had words of wisdom for the audience as well as the girls at Excelsior.
Cindy Acree recovered from epilepsy and a paralyzing stroke to participate in Ride the Rockies (437-mile bicycle tour!) and become elected to represent Colorado in 2008. Cindy said, “It’s not what happens, but how you deal with it. There are very few things in life that cannot be changed.”
Rebecca Bell was a resident at Excelsior in 1998 due to truancy, poor peer choices, strained family relations and self-esteem issues. She found that “In the right atmosphere and with the right support, you can accomplish a lot. You must know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My tunnel was very dark. Life is about making mistakes, but you have to learn from them.” Ms. Bell currently works with the disabled and is in graduate school.
Ryta Sondergard grew up with her, um, entrepreneur father, who ended up losing their home in a gambling debt, leaving her family homeless. She learned strength and resilience from her mother and never forgets those tough days as she supports child- and education- oriented organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Her motto? “Relationship is key to success.”
The travel theme played into the evening again during the live auction, when Gary Corbett performed his magic in auctioning off several items, which included a stay in a private restored windmill in Greece, a United Airlines flight simulator, and golfing at three of Arizona’s best golf resorts.
When traveling down the road of life, it helps to have a destination.  Or at least a map.  For girls lacking a vision for their future, Excelsior Youth Center provides direction, goals and support along the way.
Of the 180 girls lucky enough to have their GPS lead them to treatment at Excelsior, nearly half are from out of state. More than 82% successfully complete the program and transition back into the community. And with role models like those honored at the Passport Party, these girls will find their way.

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