Gala raises money for Betty Ford gardens |

Gala raises money for Betty Ford gardens

Story and photos by Carolyn Pope

“Can you imagine a summer without enjoying a concert in the Gerald Ford Amphitheater and taking a stroll beforehand in the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens?” Jack Kemp asked. “Everyone here thinks of Betty as a friend. So many people say they were a guest at Jerry’s 91st Birthday – along with 90,000 other people!” Although their appearance at the gala was limited, the smiles and applause left no doubt of the fondness people in the Vail Valley have for the former president and his wife. Last Saturday night was the annual fund-raiser for Betty’s namesake gardens, and she sparkled as she greeted her friends and admirers. “My digging days are over,” she said, “but the gardens are such a pride to us. Tonight is just an example of the support we have here.”The “Arts and Flowers Gala Dinner and Auction” was held at Larkspur this year. Each guest was treated to Larkspur’s exceptional food, music performed by pianist Mickey Poage, and an auction that included fabulous artwork donated by Peter Max, Masters Gallery, C. Anthony Gallery, Bob and June Vanourek and Kay Lawrence. Bob and Helen Fritch, one of the founders of the Alpine Gardens, donated a week in Kauai, and garden supporters John and Anne Rainey contributed a week on the beach at Pawley’s Island in South Carolina.The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is celebrating its 17th anniversary this summer. Over 50,000 people pass through the gates annually, showcasing the unique nature of alpine plants and the importance of protecting the mountain environments in which they grow. What many people don’t know is that gardens are a nonprofit organization, and survive on sales from the gifts shop and donations. Just like the flora and fauna in the gardens that depend on the rain showers, the gardens depend on the generosity of locals and visitors to sustain its life.”I have lived in 10 different states and had gardens in all 10,” said June Vanourek, president of the gardens’ board of directors. “It’s natural thing for me to be involved with the gardens here. The gardens represent beauty and renewal.”Bob Vanourek ably handled the auction, even though it was his first time with the gavel. The new executive director, Jim Brandmeyer, was introduced, newly arrived from Kansas City. He and his wife have a special connection with the gardens – they were married there. But the gardens seem to touch all visitors who have the opportunity to see them, and remain a special place in every locals’ heart, just like the lady they were named after, and her husband.Kemp summed up the feelings of everyone in the room that night. “How much joy you bring into our valley and into the country!” ==========================================To Learn MoreFor information on the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, visit their Web site at or call their offices at 476-0103.Vail, Colorado

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