By: Judith B. Taylor Issue: Big Ideas, Smart People Section: Collaboration Close Up
It was the first, and it won’t be the last. Play It Forward presented by the Women With A Cause Foundation moved forward with the gusto of a long lasting, unique and fun event held on February 18 at the beautiful Denver Seawell Ballroom. The Women With A Cause Foundation promotes economic development programs that focus on education and skills training, enabling women to be lifted out of poverty toward self-sufficiency while earning a sustainable income.
Although it was the inaugural gathering, there was a sellout crowd, along with a unique auction, and gourmet hors d’oeuvres. A distinctive talent show of music and dance acts were selected by Women With A Cause judges and votes from the community. Then, the acts performed and a group of celebrity judges picked the top three acts. It culminated in an entertaining evening full of laughter, appreciation, and local talent.
Along with the talent show, nonprofit unsung heroines, Jill DiPasquale and Sandee Walling were honored for their outstanding grassroots, behind-the-scenes efforts in numerous volunteer endeavors.
One of the event’s main goals was to raise money for homeless mothers and female veterans to attend nursing schools at area universities. "It was a little different type of event," said Susan Kiely, CEO and founder of Women With A Cause. "The feedback has been kind of interesting. People were so surprised. They loved the energy and loved the event. A number of my friends heard about the rave reviews we got. And, we made over $100,000."
Some of the beneficiaries included The Matthew Shepard Foundation from T Strickland who won first place in the talent showcase. Sixteen year old Raeanna Clark performed a moving vocal performance that earned her second place. She "played it forward" for Friends First. Third place winner, Rikka Zimmer, a singer/songwriter "played it forward" for Denver’s Road Home.
Plans are already in the works for what Kiely hopes will be an annual event for Women With A Cause Foundation’s WE Initiative. The WE Initiative will be conducted in conjunction with Regis University: Rueckert-Hartman College Professionals, the University of Colorado College of Nursing, and the Community College of Aurora. These institutions have agreed to admit 10 qualified women from the WE Initiative into their nursing programs.
Clearly, Women With A Cause Foundation and its premiere event, Play It Forward, met its goal of assisting homeless mothers and women veterans to attend nursing schools at local universities. With such a success in its debut, Play It Forward is likely to become one of Denver’s premier annual events. "We have been floored by the accolades," Kiely said.