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Being in the minority is an eye-opener

Published in the Durango Herald October 28, 2014

…Sometimes I feel for nonprofits – they work for months planning fundraisers, they cajole, wheedle and persuade businesses and individuals to donate some cool items for silent and live auctions, they push everyone to sell tickets and then … all that effort, and they end up with a group of attendees who just aren’t bidding. An important fundraiser in their annual schedule does not bring in the monies needed for the organization’s operations.

I’ve been to two fundraisers in the last couple of weeks where, thankfully, that was not the case, and I’m going to write about one of them in this Neighbors.

The Durango Adaptive Sports Association’s annual Harvest Gala is always an evening of high spirits, because this is, without a doubt, one of the most joyful causes in town. And it seemed this year that every one of the 127 guests came armed with generosity of spirit.

Held Oct. 16 at the Strater Hotel, the event began in the Henry Strater Theatre, which was loaded with everything from luxurious and rustic getaways, dining at virtually every restaurant in town, tons of ski passes from Adaptive Sports’ major sponsor, Durango Mountain Resort, art, jewelry, some beautiful pieces from Korea courtesy of Miss Jane Fogelman and a lot of practical things – propane from Amerigas, an energy efficiency kit from La Plata Electric Association and so on. Appetizers including phyllo pastry cups with melted brie and cranberry and lamb meatballs kept the crowd fueled.

You have to love a town with not one but two chocolatiers, the longtime Rocky Mountain Chocolate Co., which donated a basket with $160 worth of goodies, and Animas Chocolate Co., the newcomer artisanal chocolate purveyor. ACC chocolate guru Carley Snider not only donated a $100 basket of her own, she donated the party favors, too. (If whoever bought those two baskets finds themselves overwhelmed with too much chocolate – which is an oxymoron, I guess – I would be happy, as a community service, to help you out.)

Then it was into the Mahogany Grille, where Chef Arnold “Safari” Ngumbao and his crew served a field green salad with Granny Smith apples, feta cheese, roasted pecans and sundried cranberries with a champagne vinaigrette; followed by a choice of herb-crusted flat iron steak with a pinot-shallot demi-glace or red chile-and-lime-grilled salmon with sweet corn and peach salsa, both served with white cheddar, bacon and green onion scalloped potatoes, lemon and garlic-roasted asparagus, and yummy homemade rolls.

Then it was back in the theater for the dessert of bite-sized homemade éclairs and cheesecake in assorted flavors. Calvin and Pat Story once again donated their time for the live auction, which featured several one-of-a-kind items – ASA Executive Director Tim Kroes says they try to get things you can’t buy anywhere else – including Karen Esser’s Smokin’ Party for Eight (a lesson on smoking everything from salt and nuts to meat), a progressive dinner around Durango, a gourmet Mediterranean dinner courtesy of Justice Tower, fly fishing (plus a gourmet brunch or supper) on the Florida River courtesy of Derrill and Nancy Macho, and so on.

The organizing committee included Esser, Susan Tait (does that make it all 14 years?), Lynn Murison, BJ Boucher and Val Skarbek, with ASA office manager Lee Hagar (known as “chick in charge,” as ASA Program Director Anne Marie Meighan put it) and Murison recognized with flowers as going above and beyond.

The good news? Adaptive Sports made around $40,000, which will help it achieve its mission of providing recreational activities for children and adults with physical or cognitive disabilities.

There’s another piece of good news on the ASA front. The Durango Winter Sports Foundation will be inducting ASA founders Dave Spencer (posthumously), Lana Jo Chapin and Mary Riddell into its Hall of Fame on Nov. 15. Visit www.durangowintersports.org/events to learn more and purchase tickets.

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