High Altitude Society column: YouthPower365 hosts eighth-annual Star Dancing Gala | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Society column: YouthPower365 hosts eighth-annual Star Dancing Gala

GYPSUM — On Thursday, July 14, at the Vail Valley Jet Center, a well-decorated hangar came alive with the sound of music, laughter and conversation during the eighth annual Star Dancing Gala to benefit YouthPower365. Under the umbrella of the Vail Valley Foundation, YouthPower365 strives to serve the youth of Eagle County every day of the year, from cradle to career.

The organization currently works with more than 4,000 youth in Eagle County, with a goal to expand direct programming. Funds raised Thursday evening will help YouthPower365 continue its good work and realize its goals and mission. With the Star Dancing Gala theme "Launch Our Future," and an impressive list of accomplishments and data to support the effectiveness of ongoing and current programming, the message is clear that the future is bright in Eagle County.

"Our methods, the achievements we have seen to date and the successes still to come are replicable," said Mike Imhof, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Foundation. "We now stand poised to become a model for other American communities to emulate."

Melisa Rewold-Thuon, executive director of YouthPower365, welcomed the crowd and recognized the event sponsors.

"We are so excited this evening to see all of you here in order to support the wonderful programming and help us elevate education, arts and athletics for the youth of the Vail Valley," she said. "This year, we have two presenting sponsors for the first time … Amy and Steve Coyer and Ann Smead and Michael Byram. And to our event sponsors, Jean Graham-Smith and Phil Smith, thank you for your continued support and your hands-on approach in all that we do."

'Legacy of Support'

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Rewold-Thuon then thanked her hard-working staff and volunteers who made the evening come to life and showed her appreciation to the Vail Valley Jet Center for providing such a stellar venue for the event.

"This is the eighth year that the Star Dancing Gala has been hosted here, and I want to extend a sincere thank-you to the Vail Valley Jet Center and the incredibly accommodating staff," she said, and though it is important to look to the future, she was sure to acknowledge the past. "The name YouthPower365 is new this year, but the legacy of support for the children of our Valley has been growing strong for 19 years."

Imhof introduced Legacy Award honorees Ann Smead and Michael Byram, the Tang family and the Borgen family.

"These honorees have given us countless hours of their time, guidance, resources and their commitment. … Every single one of them had an intrinsic understanding that education was the key to opening doors for opportunity," Imhof said.

Vail native and Colorado State Sen. Mike Johnston was the evening's emcee.

"It's an honor to come host the Star Dancing Gala — not only one of the most important education fundraisers in the region, but also, it is one of the most enjoyable nights of the summer," he said.

The evening's schedule kicked off with an opening performance by the energetic and joyful Celebrate the Beat troupe. Johnston then introduced each of the Gala's performers, including celebrity dancers Amy Coyer, Mike Glass, Alex Hyde, Donna Giordano, Josiah Middaugh, Stacey Sapp, the Rev. Brooks Keith and his daughters and Kathi Jones, who danced with professional dancers Colin Meiring, Maria Barry, Morgan Flahive-Foro and Reason Galt.

"I am so impressed with the level of commitment, passion and talent that each celebrity dancer brings to this event," Star Dancing Gala artistic director Colin Meiring said.

Vail Performing Arts Academy concluded the live entertainment part of the evening when students took to the stage and performed to the song "Starship," which truly reflected the youth of our community taking off into the future. Kudos go out to Vail Performing Arts Academy's Meiring and Annah Scully, as well as the staff and student performers.

The live auction items at this year's Star Dancing Gala included a Sonnenalp Club sports membership, luxury accommodations in Vienna, Austria, dinner with celebrity chef Kelly Liken, golf and lodging packages and more. Thank-yous went out to all of the bidders and fund-a-need participants. Until next year, enjoy the dance of life.

Betty Ann Woodland is a longtime local who covers social events of all kinds including fundraisers for nonprofits, local happenings and soirees of all kinds. She can be reached at bettyannw6@gmail.com.