Justin Klomp, right, announces that the winner of the raffle for a diamond pendant is Dana Davis. Also onstage are Klomp’s daughter, Chloe, left; Denver Broncos Cheerleader and pendant model, Darian; and emcee Ed Greene. Western Fantasy, benefiting Volunteers of America, at the National Western Events Center in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Photo StevePeterson.photo

Attendance may not have been equal to that of previous years, thanks to a commitment to COVID safety, but the 750 who gathered at the National Western Events Center for Western Fantasy 28 opened their wallets wide, raising $1,035,000 for Volunteers of America-Colorado. 

Adrienne Ruston Fitzgibbons, who chaired the Oct. 16 event with Stephen Edmonds, director of philanthropy for the Mental Health Center of Denver, said she was particularly pleased that $210,000 of that total came from a live auction called by Grant Snyder, the sale of “surprise boxes” donated by Trice Jewelers and gifts made by cash or credit card that night. 

“VOA helps to fill many critical needs,” she said, referring to the faith-based nonprofit’s 57 programs that for 125 years have provided food, shelter and other services for veterans, domestic abuse survivors, senior citizens and other low-income Coloradans. “Every penny that we raised will be put to very good use.” 

Since its start, Western Fantasy has raised $30 million. 

Travel packages proved to be particularly popular. Twenty-four bidders paid $1,900 each for a two-person, five-night Beachcomber by Outrigger stay in Waikiki; four bidders paid $5,000 each for a luxury Los Suenos Jungle Adventure in Costa Rica, while the Sie and Whitten families placed the $21,000 winning bid for a trip to Inglewood, Calif., for Super Bowl LVI. 

Fitzgibbons and Edmonds also were pleased that the fundraiser was an in-person event this year. The longtime Western Fantasy committee members had been asked to chair Western Fantasy in 2020, but because of the pandemic, the event’s co-founders, Sharon Magness Blake and Jean Galloway, made the difficult decision to have Western Fantasy be a virtual event instead of an in-person one. 

“When Steve and I were asked to repeat our roles in 2021, we were excited because it meant we would get to say a hearty thank-you to everyone who stood with us in 2020 and made the virtual version a success.” 

Limited attendance wasn’t the only nod to COVID safety this year. The traditional presentation of colors — Sharon Magness Blake carrying a giant American flag as she rides Thunder, mascot of the Denver Broncos, around the arena floor while Lee Greenwood, either in person or via video, sings his signature “God Bless the USA” — had to be put off to another year.  

Unvaccinated guests were asked, but not required, to wear masks when not eating or drinking. And those who had not brought a mask could get one, with a Western Fantasy logo, when they received their table assignment. 

Dave Schunk, VOA-Colorado's president and chief executive officer, said that while 2020 presented more than its share of challenges, “We prioritized PPE investments, devised COVID protocols and made other adjustments” so that services to some 150,000 Coloradans could continue uninterrupted.  

For example: When schools closed, the staff at VOA’s early childhood education center created an online learning program for students and a weekly drive-up food distribution program. Meals on Wheels volunteers no longer entered their clients’ homes, but developed a drop-off system so that nearly one million meals could safely be distributed.   

The evening concluded with the presentation of the Noel and Tammy Cunningham Humanitarian Award to Wells Fargo Bank and an hour-long concert by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. 

Guests included U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, there as guests of NexGen founder Charlie McNeil and his wife, Judy; Marilyn and Pete Coors; Ralph, Anne and Justin Klomp of the Trice Jewelers family; Faye and Dr. Reginald Washington (she is the immediate past president of the VOA-Colorado board and he is chief medical officer for Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children); Dana Davis, executive director of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation; Cindy Farber, widow of the late attorney Steve Farber; developer Peter Kudla; Lloyd Lewis, president/CEO of arc Thrift, and his wife, Claire; MidFirst Bank chairman Bob Malone and his wife, Kalleen; Realtor Edie Marks; FMH Material Handling Solutions president John Faulkner and his wife, Patty; and 9News weather forecaster Ed Greene, the evening’s master of ceremonies, with his wife, Barb.

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