Making the outdoors accessible to all

The Durango Adaptive Sports Association held its 12th annual Harvest Gala Dinner and Auction on Thursday evening at the Strater Hotel. From left, John Baxter, Kim Fluty, Nancy Wallace and Cary Smith look over items in the silent auction. The auction included practical items such as propane and hair cuts as well as jewelry, outdoor adventures, fine dining, spirits, art, sports equipment and even an Adirondack-style chair and bench made from old skis. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

The Durango Adaptive Sports Association held its 12th annual Harvest Gala Dinner and Auction on Thursday evening at the Strater Hotel. From left, John Baxter, Kim Fluty, Nancy Wallace and Cary Smith look over items in the silent auction. The auction included practical items such as propane and hair cuts as well as jewelry, outdoor adventures, fine dining, spirits, art, sports equipment and even an Adirondack-style chair and bench made from old skis.

Why should the able-bodied have all the outdoor fun?

The folks at the Durango Adaptive Sports Association answer that question with a resounding, “They shouldn’t!”

During both the summer and the winter, the group provides a wide array of recreational opportunities to those with physical and cognitive disabilities, and the result is more than just a good time. It’s a world-expander, “I-can-have-an-active-life” and “I-can-do-more-than-I-thought” kind of experience.

On Thursday, the ASA held its 12th annual Harvest Gala Dinner & Auction at the Strater Hotel. The evening began with some noshing and shopping in the Henry Strater Theatre, with Strater Catering and Events serving duck-confit bruschetta, homemade spanakopita and miniature beef Wellingtons.

As always, the silent auction items at this event were astounding. There were wonderful pieces of art – Dave Sipe’s quizzical carved vulture inspired some spirited bidding – as well as jewelry and all kinds of sporting equipment and adventures.

Among the items that most sparked some conversation (pun intended) was La Plata Electric Association’s energy-efficiency basket.

And the one that caught my eye was Barry and Robin Mason’s donation of a cornucopia of goodies from Trader Joe’s.

The group moved into the Mahogany Grille for a delicious dinner created by sous chef Rob Blythe and his crew. After a green salad, guests chose between a New York strip with a mushroom demi-glace or salmon with a parsley beurre blanc (delish).

ASA has discovered a sure-fire way to get people back to the theater for the live auction: serve dessert there. The Strater served a plate of goodies at each table, which included lemon bars, chocolate-covered strawberries and a scrumptious white chocolate-raspberry cake.

Before the bidding started for 12 special items, Executive Director Tim Kroes took the time to introduce the organization’s new video, with the band picking up the theme song, Michael Franti and Spearhead’s “Say Hey (I Love You),” for short sing-a-long. And thanks go to Trina Martin on drums, David Mensch on vocals, Miles Lillard on guitar and Kevin Martin on bass guitar, for making us all sound pretty good. A number of people joined the band as the rhythm section on tambourines, maracas and other associated instruments.

Anne Marie Meighan, the ASA’s program director, as she billed herself, couldn’t bring any more enthusiasm or talent to her position. She told the crowd of 124 that the Winter Special Olympics, which has had a partnership with Adaptive Sports for 28 years, has lost all of its funding for the winter season in Southwest Colorado.

But because ASA has seen what it means to folks with cognitive disabilities to train and compete in front of friends and family, they’re not willing to let it go. So enter San Juan Shredders, which will offer the physical and emotional benefits of winter sports to more than 60 athletes.

It costs $30 for a day of training, and $210 to provide a season for one skier. They asked folks at the benefit if they were willing to sponsor a skier for the season, and at least a dozen hands went up immediately. They brought in more than $5,600.

Calvin and Pat Story of Treasure Auction once again donated their time to lead the bidding for 12 special items. A few highlights included a llama trek with lunch and wine courtesy of Lois Small; a sightseeing tour for four in a private plane to Telluride thanks to Greg Schackel; a progressive “Dine Around Durango,” at The Palace Restaurant, The Office Spiritorium, Cosmopolitan and Mutu’s Italian Kitchen; private fly fishing on the Florida River courtesy of Derrill and Nancy Macho, with one of her delicious home-cooked meals; a girls night in hosted by Lynn Martens; a gourmet Chinese dinner for six complete with cooking lesson by host Eddie Cheung; the fifth annual Pub Krawl; and, for the grand finale, a hog roast with fixin’s for 30 to 40 people and beer courtesy of Durango Brewing Co. In a cool nonprofit crossover, the succulent roast pig was offered by the Women’s Resource Center’s two-time Men Who Grill People’s Choice winners Bo “Sweet Heat” Maloney from J. Bo’s Pizza and Rib Co., and Chris “The Alligator” Martin from T’s Smokehouse Grill.

Kroes tells me the event raised $44,000 and counting, which is good news for the winter programming. That is kudos to event Chairwoman Lee Hagar and her committee – Carol House, Pat Kolvek, Lillard, Trina Martin, Paula Mills and Susan Tait.

A special shout-out goes to Karen Esser, who not only served on the committee, but donated several meals. That’s loyalty to a cause.

I know many a skier who has gotten completely hooked on volunteering for Adaptive Sports. The organization is holding volunteer orientations at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 or Nov. 14 at the Durango Community Recreation Center. If you’ve always thought about checking it out, now’s your chance.

To learn more about the organization, visit, and to check out the video to see what all the joy for yourself, click on the link on the website.

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Last week was busy for supporters of Durango Adaptive Sports Association. Not only did the organization hold its Harvest Gala Dinner and Auction, Carol House and Willa Beatty co-hosted a game day at House’s residence.

The goal was to raise money for the campaign to replace the organization’s longtime handicapped accessible van Big Red. I’ve written about Big Red before, and readers have been asking me for an update. The original goal was to raise $50,000 and attempt to find a quality used van, but the search has proved fruitless.

So the decision was made to go for program director Anne Marie Meighan’s “dream machine,” a van that will last for many years to come. The amount raised to date is $46,000, with a need to raise another $12,000 to make that possible.

House and Beatty’s event raised $1,200 of that $46,000, and they did it by offering social bridge, duplicate bridge and mah-jongg. Fortunately, House and her husband, Larry, have both a main house and a guest house, so there was room for all 28 game aficionados.

Treats included strawberries stuffed with cream cheese and powdered sugar and House’s holiday eggnog-custard pie. Deb Schultz and Jana Goldstein assisted with the logistics.

My personal high came in the first hand of the day, with a baby slam bid and a grand slam made. (That means I took all the tricks with my partner, Schultz.) It was all downhill from there.

Cissy Anderson has bragging rights for winning at social bridge, with 4,260 points. Laura Alsup, Bee Attwood and Suzanne Zerbe were contenders for high points in duplicate, but Sandy Halseth was indisputably the woman of the hour – she bid and made a seven no trump grand slam. Wow!

Christine Rachlin and Joanie Petersen Thomas were the proud mah-jonggers (if that’s a word).

Door prizes went to Nancy Van Mols, Tina Trump, Alsup, Ann Willard, Peeb Lupia, Jane Marentette and Zerbe.

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Wishing for another week of Indian summer as they blow out their candles are Scott Holland, Tom Murray, Mark Prouty, Martin Prouty, MJ Moseley, Samantha Szura, Cheryl Bryant, JoAnn Trimberger, David Engle, Kurt Raymond, Scott Sallee, Michael Marquez, Nancy Felix, Charles Karnes, Ron Knowles, Chandler Jackson, Elizabeth Carter and Sarah Larsen.

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Whatever’s on your schedule for Saturday, make sure to stop by the Lion’s Club of Durango’s Chili and Craft Fair fundraiser at the La Plata County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall.

They guard the recipe closely, but they make a great bowl. Chili will be served from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and tickets are $6 with all the fixin’s.

Admission to the craft fair is free, and it runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As an indication of how popular this event is, the number of craft vendors has increased from 20 last year to 36 planning to attend in 2012.

The Lion’s Club does a lot of good work in our community. Their Hoyt Miller scholarship goes to a high school senior each year, and its Kidsight vision screening has been checking preschoolers in the Durango area with a special camera that detects amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye,” the major cause of loss of vision in children.

By early October, they had screened 1,500 preschoolers, referring about 15 percent to specialists. The screening is free.

Vision is a major thrust for Lions, and the club also provides assistance for vision screenings, eyeglasses and even emergency eye surgery for those who are in need.

So you can see the good your purchase of a bowl of chili can do. (Man, I am on fire today with puns.)

Thanks to Susie Ammann, Carol Lewin and Pat Stone for keeping me posted.

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Only middle-aged people have been out of high school for 40 years, so painful as it is to admit it, I guess I fall into that category. I’m feeling reflective because the planning is beginning for Durango High School’s Class of 1973, which will take place next year. Yikes!

A reunion organizing committee is assembling to plan our walk down memory lane, with the first meeting to be held at 1 p.m. today at the Strater Hotel.(A lunch menu will be available.) And there’s no need to give me a hard time for just now getting it in – I only received the information Monday.

Contacts for the reunion are Joni (Ross) Paul at 759-8305 or Dana (Schwein) Black at 769-2285.

To spur attendance, they’re reminding me and our fellow classmates that whoever shows up gets to make up the rules. And maybe make up a new slogan, because, frankly, Jack Turner’s “We’re not getting better, we’re getting older,” is a little too much for those of us who are in denial.

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Carving pumpkins for their anniversaries are Everett and Phyllis Hoyt, John and Sandy Seibert and Larry and Sherri Gaugh.

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