Tribute to the West provides hope for dyslexic students

The day was hot – too hot – but the party was the definition of cool as supporters of the Liberty School gathered for Round Up on the Animas on June 9.

Set on the Little Fishes property owned by Lonnie and Dena Malouff, the party was a tribute to the best of the West. And it wasn’t just on the Animas; the river was flowing merrily by just a couple of yards away, adding its own touch of literal coolness.

Musician Gary Allegretto drove from California to perform, and he was far too good for the background music role he was assigned. The good news is that those who weren’t at the party will have another chance to hear him at the Cowboy Gathering in October. Most impressive was his skill on the harmonica, with his nod to Durango being a train town. The other entertainment was “Dirty” Don Hinckley sharing both new and traditional cowboy poetry for the crowd of about 80.

Wayne Royce, the chef from Mountain Madness Pizza & Pub, prepared a true chuckwagon dinner of barbecued beef brisket, cowboy beans, coleslaw and very fluffy biscuits, with wines supplied by Guy Drew Vineyard.

Twelve people agreed to serve as heads of table, so the conversation varied depending on where guests sat. The heads were Joel Jones, Julie Cooley, Bobbie Carll, Paul Folwell, Bill Warren, Jonathan Latta, Guy Drew, Molly Martin, Fred Wildfang, Bruce Andrea, Liberty Head of School Bill O’Flanagan and The Durango Herald Publisher Richard Ballantine.

Eddie Mac Taylor and Denny Schilthuis helped make the auction a big success.

For the Malouff family, this was a bittersweet labor of love in memory of their son, Dustin, who died of cancer last year at the age of 29. Stepsister Michelina Paulek didn’t let being pregnant stop her from serving as the bartender and serving libations courtesy of Star Liquors, Needles Liquor, Honeyville Whiskey, Upper East Side Liquor and Ska Brewing Co. in Dustin’s memory.

Why this charity? They didn’t know it then, but Dustin probably struggled with dyslexia during his life, a story that many other guests told as well. For Warren, it wasn’t until his son was diagnosed in high school that he realized he himself had needed to work extra hard to get through school, including law school. Carll headed up her table in memory of a beloved nephew who died two years ago in a car accident. Her nephew’s life had also been difficult because of the challenges of different brain wiring.

All of them – Dustin Malouff, Bill Warren and Carll’s nephew – would have had far different lives if the Liberty School had been available for them. The school provides specialized and intensive tutoring for students who have dyslexia, are intellectually gifted, or are twice exceptional, both dyslexic and gifted.

That intensive attention doesn’t come cheap, and the school doesn’t want to have to turn away any student who could benefit from its methods. And thus, the evening, which raised more than $18,000 for scholarships.

Kudos to event chairwomen Cheryl Folwell and Dena Malouff, who created a special evening for an important cause. They were ably aided by Liberty School board Chairman Bob Harrington, Suzette Collard and school founder Joyce Bilgrave.

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Happy birthday wishes go out to the last of the Gemini and first of the Cancer babies – Cathy Hartney, Danette Jenkins, Crystal Willmett, Tiffany Mapel, Callan Barnhardt, Asher Clair, Cheryl Lillard, John Waters, Ann Willard, George San Miguel, Sharon Kinton, Jay Hurtadors, Amanda Pierce, Ron Anderson, Paul Mills, Jodie House, Emma Russell, Ricky Hermesman, Tyler Erickson, Erin Sparks, Mollianne Eckart, Margaret Ptolemy and Erin Carman.

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What do the longest day, the long goodbye and a bunch of people hoping for a long run of good cards have in common?

A gathering hosted by the Durango Bridge Club with a full day of the mind-challenging game on Friday, also known as the summer solstice, to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, that’s what. Similar events are taking place around the country sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Contract Bridge League.

Here’s the scoop. It will take place at the Durango/La Plata Senior Center, with three sessions, one each at 8:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tables will be available for duplicate players and folks like me who play only social bridge. Snacks will be served.

If you’re staying the full day, lunch at the senior center will be available by making an advance reservation – payment is additional for that.

To reserve, which is recommended because they’ve got to plan the tables, contact Barry Hillmer at 749-7950 or Willa and Jim Beatty at 385-0184 or jdbeatty@bresnan.net. All proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

There are sponsorships and different registration options, and I’ll let Hillmer and the Beattys explain those, but the bottom line for the full day is $100. Although, of course, larger donations would be very welcome.

I’ve often written about how much I love fundraisers that relate to the cause, and this one is right up there. Research shows that one of the protections against dementia is learning new things and challenging our brains. Virtually all of the longtime bridge players I know have stayed sharp a very long time, and I think it was partly because they were keeping those neurons firing, figuring out bidding strategy and how to play the hand to make the contract.

Alzheimer’s is devastating to the people who have it and to their caregivers. I have read predictions that baby boomers reaching their senior years means an ever-increasing number of Alzheimer’s patients that may be the straw that breaks our Medicare system.

So playing bridge to help? That’s a grand slam, bid and made.

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Celebrating the wedding bells that chimed for their June weddings are Randy and Cathy Black, Carl and Linda Curtiss, Jeff and Brenda Nelson, Danny and B.J. Pierce, Tim and Cheryl Birchard, Jonas and Moni Grushkin, Steve and Beth Scales, Tom and Penni Compton, Deck and Diane Shaline and Bill and Sheri Collins.