Coppeak receives Spirit of Betty Ford Award |

Coppeak receives Spirit of Betty Ford Award

Daily Staff ReportVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL – To a standing ovation from hundreds of friends, colleagues and supporters, a longtime community advocate received top honors Sunday from organizers of America’s highest botanical garden. The board of directors of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens presented the second annual Spirit of Betty Ford Award to Allie Coppeak at the nonprofit’s annual fundraising gala at Vail’s Ford Park.”I think we all realize that no one can duplicate the special qualities of Betty Ford; she truly is one-of-a-kind,” said June Vanourek, the board’s vice president. “For the Spirit of Betty Ford Award, the board looked for someone who has made many contributions to the Vail Valley – someone who is genuine, sincere, humble and has reached out to members of the community in friendship and support.”

Originally from Hattiesburg, Miss., Coppeak first visited the Vail Valley in 1963, returning many times before ultimately taking up residence here in 1988. In the nearly two decades since then, she’s been a key fund-raiser for the Vail Valley Foundation, which among its many charitable causes includes operating the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre, adjacent to Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Coppeak, who is retiring this summer, also has served on other charitable organization boards, including the Gore Range Natural Science School, in a fund-raising advisory capacity. A musician in her early life with a performing arts degree in voice, she has deep appreciation for the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival’s bringing premiere musical concerts to the Vail Valley. In 1990, Coppeak was instrumental as a member of the foundation’s staff in the creation of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy at Vail, now the Vail International Dance Festival.To the delight of the more than 200 people in attendance Sunday, Coppeak thanked the community at large, saying she was “very fortunate” to have had the opportunity, through the Foundation, to serve the Vail Valley and to develop a “special relationship” with President Gerald Ford and former first lady Betty Ford, the Gardens’ namesake.”We were more like buddies than friends,” Coppeak said. “And this was one of her favorite places to be.”

A long list of speakers, some in person and others in a special video tribute, praised Coppeak not only for her fundraising work, but also for her personal strength, undying spirit and “wicked” sense of humor.”Allie, your enthusiasm is contagious,” said Ceil Folz, president and chief executive officer of the Vail Valley Foundation. “We’re fortunate to be among your very many friends.””She gave it all, and contributed all, to what she believed in,” added Sheika Gramshammer, a member of the Foundation’s board of directors. “Betty Ford and Allie both believe in creation.”

“She delivered the goods,” added John Garnsey, also a member of the Foundation’s board.With the vision of being recognized as the foremost authority on high-altitude plants in natural and cultivated landscapes in the Rocky Mountains region and similar environments, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, at 8,250 feet above sea level, is the highest botanical garden in the United States, and perhaps the world, providing free access to an estimated 100,000 visitors annually. The organization plays an important role in encouraging summertime flower displays throughout the Vail Valley at both private homes and businesses and is active in displaying and working for the conservation of high-altitude plants.For more information call 476-0103 or visit

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