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September 13, 2003 - Thousands of Children can IMAGINE a Difference

Where: The Convention Center

When: September 13, 2003

Beneficiary: The Children's Hospital Foundation and Post-News Charities, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation

Mistress of Ceremonies: Caroline Rhea, actress, comedian and talk show host

Honoree(s): Ambassador children: Taylor Duell, Alexis Kiechlin, Tanner Seebaum, Eric Rhoades, Jasmine Davis, Lauren Proctor, Olivia Murrow, Brittney Duley, Kelsey Bohman, Rebecca Lockler

Presenting Sponsor(s): Walter and Christie Isenberg

Gala Chairperson(s): Walter and Christie Isenberg

Corporate Chairperson(s): Scott and Virginia Reiman, and co-chairs Bruce and Nancy Deifik, John and Sue Schafer

Co-Chair(s): Dinner: Steve and Cindy Farber with Lee and Debbi Alpert; Auction chair: Becky Hawkins

Welcome: Steve Winesett, President and CEO of The Children's Hospital Foundation and Dori Biester, President and CEO of The Children's Hospital

Catering: Centerplate Catering

Entertainment: Lionel Richie, five-time Grammy winner

Sponsors: Imagine: Sage Hospitality Resources, CTM Foundation, Cydney and Tom Marsico, Colorado Volvo Retailers, Tiffany & Company; Platinum: The Barbara Bridges Family Foundation, Berger-Solano Foundation, Brownstein Hyatt & Farbar, Bruce and Nancy Deifik, Mr. and Mrs. Donald M. Elliman, Frederic Printing, Frontier Airlines, The Gallagher Family Foundation, Gary-Williams Energy Corporation/The Piton Foundation, Hexagon Investments, Joy S. Johnson, Chris and Tammy Marsico, Skip and Nancy Miller, Scott and Virginia Reiman, The Rutt Bridges Family Foundation

Auctioneer: Tom Green of WB2 and Caroline Rhea

Quote of the evening: “He made my night and has made the kids feel like rock stars,” said one of the many audience members. “Wow, he has us packed in like sardines and I don’t even care!” overheard in the crowd.

Attendance: 1,836 - Sold out!

Attire: Blacktie

Information: Children's Hospital 720.917.1700

Event Coordinator: Sue Ellen Goss of Innovative Events

Decor/Rental Company: Newberry Brothers Greenhouse & Florists

Blacktie Photos by: Elizabeth Byrnes


 Actress and comedian Caroline Rhea and Nicole Isenberg, center, pose with the Ambassador children.  From left, in front, Alexis Kiechlin, Tanner Seebaum, Olivia Murrow and Lauren Proctor.  Second row, from left, Taylor Duell, Kelsey Bohman, Jasmine Davis and Eric Rhoades.  Missing from the photo are...
Actress and comedian Caroline Rhea and Nicole Isenberg, center, pose with the Ambassador children. From left, in front, Alexis Kiechlin, Tanner Seebaum, Olivia Murrow and Lauren Proctor. Second row, from left, Taylor Duell, Kelsey Bohman, Jasmine Davis and Eric Rhoades. Missing from the photo are...

By Elizabeth Byrnes

Thousands of children will benefit from the record-breaking, just over $1.6 million that was raised at the 26th Annual Children’s Hospital Gala. Over 1,800 guests gathered on September 13th at the sold-out gala, held this year at the Colorado Convention Center, swooning to the soothing sounds of Lionel Richie and giggling with Caroline Rhea.

“We are here to celebrate many things,” said Steve Winesett, President of The Children’s Hospital Foundation, as he welcomed the crowd to the “Imagine” gala. “First, we want to celebrate the inspiration and courage of our children. It is the courage, inspiration, wisdom and even the elegance of our children and their families that help to define the characteristics of our institution.” He continued on to acknowledge the remarkable achievements of the physicians, scientists, nurses, the many caregivers and volunteers, and the generous financial and emotional support of the community.

Christie Isenberg, Gala co-chair, along with her husband Walter, had a huge undertaking with the preparations of the 26th gala, following on the heels of the most successful gala in its history, the 2003 gala (where $1.2 million was raised). “With the overwhelming success of the 25th Anniversary Gala we had so much momentum to build on this year,” Christie explained. “The theme ‘Imagine’ signifies the endless possibilities of what we can do to support The Children’s Hospital and ensure it remains one of the leading pediatric centers in the country.” The annual gala is an event of The Children’s Hospital Foundation and Post-News Charities, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation.

With the fundraising goal set at $1.5 million, the Isenbergs recruited the 2003 Gala’s core leadership chairs. Dinner co-chairs Steve and Cindy Farber and Lee and Debbi Alpert, auction chair Becky Hawkins, corporate chairs Scott and Virginia Reiman, and corporate co-chairs Bruce and Nancy Deifik and John and Sue Schafer.

During the VIP reception, guests mingled and had an opportunity to have their photos taken with five-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie and Caroline Rhea, stand-up comedian, actress and talk show host. Dinner chairs Steve and Cindy Farber stood in line for a photo but also to say hello. For them, it was a reunion with their good friend Lionel Richie, who they met fifteen years ago on a trip to Aspen. “He was there learning how to ski,” laughed Farber. “A friend of ours introduced us and well, the rest is history.”

During the cocktail hour Caroline Rhea, otherwise known as Aunt Hilda on the sitcom, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, mingled among the guests stopping for photo ops and autographs. Hundreds of silent auction items awaited bids while guests sipped on specialty martinis.

The Convention Center was transformed into an elegant and dramatic setting with yards of black drapes, red lighting and over 3,500 deep red Rouge Brassiere roses. In the grand ballroom, gala co-chair Christie Isenberg designed the larger-than-life black wrought iron chandeliers, decorated with red ribbon, roses, greenery and candles. The chandeliers and hundreds of little white lights were suspended from the ceiling, creating an intimate setting, in an otherwise cavernous space. Each table was adorned with a lush bouquet of roses, sprinkled with more white lights. Though the décor was certainly red, there was a certain distinct blue that stood out.

Tiffany & Co. returned again this year to adorn each table with a “Tiffany’s Blue Box Auction,” giving gala-goers an opportunity to bid against others for a chance to win one of five grand prize items, valued at more that $1,500 each. Each winner was guaranteed a first-place prize valued at more than $150.

“Just when we thought the event in total couldn’t get any better,” said Douglas Kerbs, Director of Tiffany & Co., Denver. “We were surprised and delighted to find out that our “blue box surprises” and donated silent auction items brought in over $33,000 for Children’s!” This event was about the children and though the dress attire was blacktie, that did not stop the many parents from sitting Indian-style on the ballroom floor, lined up with cameras and video recorders to capture the Ambassador children lined up on stage to be interviewed by Caroline Rhea.

Dori Biester, PhD, RN, President and CEO of The Children's Hospital, introduced and gave synopses on each child. Each year, the Ambassadors are nominated by the different department heads, hospital and foundation staff and families. The nominees are usually between 6-14 years and represent each of the departments. It is a full year commitment, for both the children and their families, attending many events and often speaking about their personal situations. These special children have been treated at the hospital and are living proof that miracles happen daily at The Children’s Hospital. Not only do they represent the hospital, it helps them get involved and offers a way to give back. Caroline’s spontaneous humor had the audience giggling at her jokes and the children at ease. Her innate curiosity and formidable comedic talents give her a natural ability to interview celebrities and real people alike. Brittney Duley was born with a cancerous tumor in her chest about the size of two golf balls, requiring both the oncology and cardiology departments to collaborate on her treatment. She is now a healthy, cancer-free 12-year old who enjoys singing, especially songs by her idols Shania Twain and Faith Hill.

Ten-year old Olivia Murrow received a new heart last year and wrote a book about the experience, titled Olivia, Anything but Ordinary. Olivia had the audience doubled over in laughter when she announced that her tights were falling down and then to make the situation even funnier, Caroline held up some papers for Olivia to hide behind and “pull up and readjust.” “It’s liberating, isn’t it?” Caroline asked her. “I know that every woman in this room is wishing they could do the same thing!” Kelsey Bohman, age 13, is an oncology patient at Children's. In September of 2000, Kelsey was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, after which she received intensive induction chemotherapy and achieved remission. To further enhance her chance for a cure, she received an allogeneic bone marrow transplant from her father.

Six-year old Tanner Seebaum has undergone surgery twice for brain tumors and has been through repeated radiation and chemotherapy. He is currently tumor free and enjoying pancakes, his favorite food.

Jasmine Davis visits the Hematology clinic once a month to be treated for sickle cell disease. She also suffers from severe respiratory distress and excruciating pain episodes that can be life threatening. Ten-year old Jasmine is an honor roll student who enjoys playing computer games and pretending to be an actress.

Five-year old Alexis Kiechlin has been seen by multiple departments for spina bifida in her young life. She and her family have become frequent flyers to Children’s where Alexis receives treatment in the departments of neurosurgery, urology, radiology and rehabilitation, as well as the Spinal Defects clinic.

In October of 2002, Lauren Proctor, from La Junta, Colorado, sustained a severe burn after playing with a lit candle on her kitchen counter. Her right hand was engulfed in flames and her mom rushed her to the emergency room. She was transferred to Children’s where she went through graft surgery on three of her fingers. Today, five-year old Lauren is a busy kindergartner who loves to play with her friends and ride Azra, her white pony.

On Mother’s Day in 2001, Taylor Duell fell on concrete while playing basketball, sustaining a traumatic brain injury. Flight for Life flew Taylor from Estes Park to Children’s, where he underwent two brain surgeries. Today, 12-year old Taylor is doing great and continues to play basketball as well as baseball, football, hockey and snowboarding.

Eric Rhoades was diagnosed with disease of the liver and colon. At the age of 10, Eric was placed on the liver transplant list and received his new liver on August 10, 2000. During his interview with Caroline, he proudly showed off photos of his new liver. "Gee, I am glad we're not having liver for dinner tonight!" joked Caroline.

Eight-year old Rebecca Lockler and Caroline acted like long-time friends. Early this year, Rebecca spent her birthday as a guest on Caroline's talk show. At the age of four, Rebecca was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma and underwent major surgery and chemotherapy to remove a brain tumor from her right adrenal gland. Despite the fact that she has received intense chemotherapy and radiation, Rebecca continues to be very brave and is always in good spirits.

The anticipation of the evening built and the crowd clapped wildly when musical legend Lionel Richie, in the midst of his first U.S. tour of the millennium, jumped on stage. He soon had the guests partying “All Night Long.” For two solid hours, Lionel had the floor either jumping or swooning with his hit songs “Hello,” “Running With the Night,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” and “Penny Lover.” This five-time Grammy winner has sold more that 100 million albums worldwide and recorded eight number one pop hits. For nine consecutive years, Lionel had number one songs on the charts, a streak matched only by Irving Berlin.

In an especially touching gesture, Lionel brought the Ambassador children up onto the stage during his performance to sing “Endless Love,” a song he wrote and produced in 1981 with Diana Ross. The platinum duet, also from the film with the same name, topped the charts for nine weeks and became the most successful single in Motown history. “I have never sung this song as an ‘eleven-et’ or whatever you call all eleven of us singing together,” Lionel joked. “This has always been a duet.” Needless to say, each child’s face lit up when he crouched down to their level, singing personally with them. “He made my night and has made the kids feel like rock stars,” said one of the many audience members. “Wow, he has us packed in like sardines and I don’t even care!” “You always want to see him live because ‘he is so there,’” gushed another guest. “His recordings are good but his voice is velvet in person.”

Lionel recalled what Frank Sinatra once told him, “If you’re allowed just one song the world wants to hear over and over, you have a career. It you are a lucky S.O.B., not only do you have more than one but you wrote them all!” Kirk McDonald, President and CEO of the Denver Newspaper Agency, announced that during their partnership with the Children's Hospital, Post-News Charities, in partnership with the McCormick Tribune Foundation, has provided more than $570,000 in grants for the hospital. "We are very proud of that number, and of the fact that it will continue to grow," said Kirk. Auctioneers Caroline Rhea and WB2’s Tom Green worked the room to sell the incredible live auction items, raising over $35,000. The three items included a “Celine Live, Viva Las Vegas” package for two couples, a seven-night consecutive stay at any Marriott International, Ritz Carlton or Renaissance Worldwide property, and a five-hour flight package on a private Cessna Citation Excel that seats seven. Foundation board member, Jim Postle bought the 2004 silver Volvo XC90 T6 for his daughter, donated by Colorado Volvo Retailers, raising another $46,500 for Children’s.

The Children’s Hospital, founded in 1908, is a private, not-for-profit pediatric health care network. It is consistently ranked among the nation’s very best hospitals that care for kids by U.S. News & World Report and other publications. With more than 1,116 pediatric specialists and 2,000 full-time employees, Children’s is home to a number of nationally and internationally recognized medical programs. Children’s provides care to the region’s children at its main campus and through a network of care including three community-based urgent and emergency care sites, and seven specialty-care centers providing principally rehabilitation services.

Since 1998, Post-News Charities, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, has provided more than $18 million in funding to support local programs providing services to disadvantaged children and youth and literacy instruction in our community. Through the event partnership program, Post-News Charities is able to increase the amount of dollars raised at charitable events, making more funding available to support worthwhile programs in the Denver Metro area.

It was truly an amazing evening for the Ambassador kids, our guests, and for the community,” said Tonya Everist, Director of Corporate Giving for The Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The amazing amount of funds raised at the 2003 gala makes the goal of building the new Children’s Hospital a little more attainable. The “Imagine the Miracles" comprehensive campaign is co-chaired by Don Elliman of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, chair of the CH Foundation board and Ron Williams, board member of both the hospital and the foundation. Ground breaking of the new hospital is expected by summer of 2004 and the funds raised to-date and the overall goal will be announced.

IMAGINE how many miracles were envisioned at the gala and will continue to happen…

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