Vail Valley Scenery column: Project Runway wows and raises money for local education

Wendy Rimel (in last year’s design by Karl Kreuger) and Pavan Krueger hosted Project Funway.
Carolyn Pope | Special to the Daily |

This isn’t your mama’s fashion show. Then again, in many ways, it is. Mothers were everywhere, helping their daughters don their most creative best for what is, without a doubt, the valley’s most avant-garde style event.

On Saturday, April 9, more than 50 kids and women channeled their “Project Runway” inner selves and hit the catwalk in their recycled, reused and reinvented best. From umbrellas and hula-hoops to Peeps, yoga mats and Pacifico beer cans, the styles wowed the celebrity judges (Ti Diaz, Heather Hotard, Tricia Swenson and Trista Sutter) with, if not their sense of style, a definite thinking out of the box.

The wildly creative event is an annual fundraiser, now in its fifth year, for the Education Foundation of Eagle County. Formed originally as The Public Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 2001, the Education Foundation of Eagle County works in partnership with Eagle County Schools to fund strategic initiatives and programs for quality education in Eagle County.

Project Funway is the result of a group of around 25 women brainstorming after a double whammy on the school district’s finances: the failure of a county mill levy tax proposal and a cutback from the state government. The group of forward thinkers included Claire Thayer, Dianne Scherr, Jeanne Whitney and Wendy Rimel, who created the foundation to help bridge the gap in funding.

“They are a big support for teachers in bringing the community together to help us achieve our goals,” said Annie Schmidt, a teacher at Brush Creek Elementary who had nothing but kudos for the Education Foundation.

Support Local Journalism

“There was an idea for a fashion event based of ‘Project Runway,’ with designs made out of anything but fabric,” said Wendy Rimel, who chaired the event this year. “(Education Foundation) was the organization chosen the first year, and it turned into an annual event. The group understood the issues facing education funding in Colorado, and they wanted the event to remain with education.”

More than 20 children strutted their stuff, some blushing more than a light shade of pink in embarrassment, at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The winner of the event was Riley Dunn, who donned a pleated plethora of standardized testing forms, creating an exquisite ball gown. Victoria Jones walked away with the best of the grownups, with a creation she designed with Erika Fitzgerald and Vicki Glotzer.

Funding education in Colorado per pupil is one of the lowest in the nation. Colorado ranks in the bottom 20 percent, between 42nd and 49th out of all states.

On the calendar for Education Foundation of Eagle County: On Saturday, May 7, the annual event Evening of Stars honors the great teachers in our communities who are nominated by their colleagues. Scholarships are awarded to further their education, with the commitment that they will stay in Eagle County Schools and continue to teach.

For more information regarding the Education Foundation of Eagle County, visit

Carolyn Pope has covered community service events and nonprofit activities since 2001 and co-authored “The Women of Vail.” She can be reached at 970-390-9913.

Support Local Journalism