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May 18, 2011 - CNI's Cindy Acree Hope Awards Celebrate Courage and Success

What: Community event and fundraiser, recognizing Colorado Neurological Institute patients who have shown great courage in the face of a neurological condition

Where: PPA Event Center

When: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time: 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Ticket Prices: Free admission

Beneficiary: Colorado Neurological Institute

Honoree(s): J.J. Beattie, Diane Cook, Lisa and Jerry Dowling, Alison Hedquist and Lizzie Smith

EMCEE: Douglas M. Tisdale, Esq.

Executive Director: Acting executive director: Ellen Belle; new executive director: Tami Lack

Committee Members: The Honorable Cindy Acree, Dr. Edward Arenson, LaFawn Biddle, Clarence & Lynn Bunnell, Rick & Robin Fort, Greg Hastat, Dr. Richard & Linda Kelley, Drs. David & Tammie Kelsall, Artemis Khadiwala, Dr. Rajeev Kumar, Steve Laman, Barbara Parks, Dr. Peter Ricci, Douglas M. Tisdale, Esq., Sara Tomicich, Quinn Washington, Kathy Wolf & Family

Introductions: Ron Eller introduced Tami Lack; Dr. Rajeev Kumar introduced Diane Cook; Dr. Edward Arenson spoke on behalf of J.J. Beattie; Dr. David Kelsall introduced Lizzie Smith; Dr. Kirsten Bracht spoke on behalf Alison Hedquist; Dr. Elena Draznin introduced Lisa and Jerry Dowling

Speaker: Cindy Acree, State Representative Colorado - District 40

Libations: PPA Event Center

Catering: The Food Guy

Sponsors: Lead sponsors: LaFawn Biddle, Craig Hospital, Rick & Robin Fort, Don and Arlene Mohler Johnson, Dr. Richard & Linda Kelley, Radiology Imaging Associates PC, Swedish Medical Center

Quote of the evening: Cindy Acree, who had to have help getting on and off her bike, related her Ride the Rockies experience. "I looked down and realized the last 50 miles were downhill...and I didn't have to pedal."

Menu: Buffet of hors d'oeuvres and fruit selections

Attendance: 300

Attire: Business


Event Coordinator: Mary Catherine Moss, special events coordinator

Board of Directors: Lucille A. Gallagher, Chair...for a complete list, please visit

Blacktie Photos by: Lisa Perry

 J.J. Beattie, Cindy Acree Hope Award honoree, with husband John
J.J. Beattie, Cindy Acree Hope Award honoree, with husband John

With all the camaraderie of an upbeat family reunion, the Colorado Neurological Institute honored five extraordinary patients showing great courage, tenacity and grace while battling a neurological condition. The eighth annual Cindy Acree Hope Awards celebration, held on Wednesday, May 18 at the PPA Event Center, was full of emotion and inspiration. Even a rainstorm peppered with hail couldn’t deter nearly 300 physicians, staff, patients, friends and relatives from attending. The common theme among awardees was their personalized experience at CNI.

The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and beverages before a program that recognized not only the five honorees, but CNI staff as well. CNI’s new executive director Tami Lack addressed the crowd, and outgoing board members were presented with plaques for their service to the organization. Cindy Acree, Colorado state representative, told her riveting story that included a hard-fought recovery after she suffered a stroke during brain surgery for epilepsy. She also portrayed fortitude and a dash of humor as she recounted her rugged Ride the Rockies bicycle tour. The awards were created in her honor, named for her daughter Hope.

This year’s Hope Award honorees:
J.J. Beattie, diagnosed with an inoperable, malignant brain tumor in 2008. CNI’s intensive three-month treatment cycle caused the tumor to shrink significantly. She says, “Dr. Arenson (Edward B. Arenson, MD) was the first person who made me feel like there was hope...He made it clear he wanted to help me.” J.J. presented CNI with a check for more than $3,200 that she raised through donations.

Diane Cook, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008. She began her journey with intensive research and ultimately connected with the CNI Movement Disorders Center. With the help of medical director Dr. Rajeev Kumar and Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies, she co-founded Parkinson’s Support Group for the Recently Diagnosed in 2010, as well as its accompanying website.

Lisa and Jerry Dowling stood strong as Lisa twice battled back from life-threatening illnesses before their marriage in 2007. Lisa’s medical complications in 2009 included a subdural hematoma, followed by successful surgery by CNI neurosurgeon Dr. J. Paul Elliott. After acute rehabilitation with Dr. Elena Dranzin, she was referred to Dr. Karen Theriot at the CNI NeuroHealth Center for physical, speech and occupational therapies, and she hopes to return to teaching soon.

Alison Hedquist was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 19, but never let her illness distract her from faith, family and her goals. Over time her seizures increased in frequency and intensity, and she was referred to the CNI Epilepsy Center, undergoing testing with Dr. Kirsten Bracht. Since surgery in 2008 by neurosurgeon Dr. G. Alexander West, Alison hasn’t experienced a seizure, and has returned to directing music at her church and working at an accounting firm.

Lizzie Smith is an irrepressible 6-year-old, and mom Stephanie says, “Lizzie was born without the ability to hear, but that’s never held her back.” Lizzie received bilateral cochlear implants at the CNI Center for Hearing, led by Dr. David C. Kelsall.  Active at the CNI Cochlear Kids Camp, she’s fully mainstreamed in the public school system and part of an accelerated reading group. 

Genial emcee Douglas Tisdale directed the program with his usual panache, and helped generate funds for CNI as he handled monetary donations in a spirited post-program paddle-raiser "without trips or art." The generous crowd contributed thousands of dollars to CNI programs in the span of 10 minutes.

Founded in 1988, the Colorado Neurological Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the largest, most comprehensive neuroscience center in the Rocky Mountain region. A regional, national and international Center of Excellence, CNI creates and supports disease-specific programs and services for every neurological disorder, providing patient care, education, clinical research and community outreach. The mission of CNI is "to enhance the delivery of personalized, comprehensive and state-of-the-art care to patients with neurological conditions through coordinated patient care, education, research, and outreach activities." For more information, visit

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