Philanthropist of the Year

What is the Philanthropist of the Year?

The Philanthropist of the Year Award was established in 1998 to heighten the visibility of giving in the Yampa Valley.  The award honors an individual, business, and youth who have exhibited significant charitable giving, insightful leadership and volunteerism, and who encourage others to contribute by example.

2017-03-21-13_21_38-inbox-helenyvcf-org-outlook

2017

Yampa Valley Community Foundation continues its long tradition of presenting Philanthropist of the Year awards at its annual Celebration of Philanthropy event, this year on Sunday, June 25.  Local individual, business, and youth philanthropists are honored for their contributions to the community.

All three recipients share a common theme of being inspirational to encourage those around them to also give of themselves. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

To see the Celebration of Philanthropy event photographs taken by the talented Danielle Zimmerer, visit  here.

img_1281

“Giving is not a lifestyle, it is a way of life,” Pio Utu, Individual Philanthropist of the Year, tells the Yampa Valley Community Foundation with a warm smile.  Most individuals’ first thought of the day is coffee or breakfast.  Pio’s first thought is “How am I going to make a difference in someone’s life today”. If you are interested in seeing this difference firsthand, join Pio and a group of 40-50 local students all summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 am at Howelsen Park.  There, you can enjoy one of Pio’s famous strength and balance workouts.  Pio isn’t paid for his time, but he states he is paid when “the kids who I have worked with become productive citizens who excel to the best they can be.” Pio believes investing in our youth is the most important thing we can do as a community.  He has worked with hundreds of local students and has never discriminated against kids based on ability or talent.  Pio states he is particularly proud that several of the youth he has worked with have received the Youth Philanthropist of the Year award, including this year’s recipient, Charlie Harrington.  As Pio might be the face of philanthropy in his family, he is very clear that none of the efforts would be possible without his wife, Rebecca.  “Rebecca is as much a part of local kid’s lives as I,” states Pio.  Both Pio and Rebecca come from families with a strong tradition of philanthropy and community values.  Pio was born the son of a high chief in Somoa and Rebecca is the daughter of missionaries.  Together, they have passed this passion to their two children and to the hundreds of local youth they have inspired to be the greatest they can be.  They live by a motto that gifts are meant to be shared to help people.  Two of the gifts Pio shares are endless energy and compassion. He, in collaboration with the booster club, hosts an annual luau fundraiser that raises over $15,000 to support local scholarships.  Very humbled, Pio explains that, “even a person who gives always needs encouragement to give more.”  We can look to Pio as an example of how one person can better hundreds of lives.   He has called Steamboat home for 36 years and states that age will not stop him from working with youth.  Pio is a unique asset to our community and someone who truly embodies the spirit of philanthropy by quietly and consistently giving so much of his time and talents.

img_1087

When Debbie was first notified that Debbie Aragon – State Farm had received the honor as “Business Philanthropist of the Year,” her first response was, “We are not deserving; there are so many more deserving businesses.”  After visiting with Debbie, we could not think of a more fitting business to receive this award in 2017. With three sons, three grandsons, a husband, and eight team members, this would be enough to keep most people occupied.  However, Debbie has endless energy and a “can-do” attitude that has resulted in creating a culture of giving within her small business.  Her passion for community involvement is contagious to anyone who spends time with her.  Since moving to Steamboat in 1997, Debbie has shared her commitment to philanthropy with the Yampa Valley in countless ways.  Debbie believes that, “giving time is more valuable than giving money.”  Her biggest success within her business does not come from the bottom line, but from getting her team involved to improve the local community through volunteerism.   She encourages her eight team members to volunteer at least three hours per week. These volunteer hours are on her clock.   Add up all these volunteer hours and chances are that if Debbie has not worked directly with an organization, then someone from her team has.  Her team currently volunteers with Partners, Junior Achievement, Rotary of Steamboat Springs, Optimist Club of Steamboat Springs, and local schools.  On a personal level, Debbie has been involved with Strings Music Festival, the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs, Old Town Hot Springs, Routt County United Way, Horizons Specialized Services, the High School Booster Club, After Prom, and many, many more agencies.  You may have seen the Debbie Aragon – State Farm team at local fundraising events.  Debbie is constantly seeking events that foster team volunteerism, as she strives to not only build her business but cultivate a caring, strong, passionate team who are community focused.  This year, the team will participate in Day of Caring, Tour De Steamboat. Adopt a Highway, and the STARS ride, to name a few.   When asked why Debbie works so hard to give back, her response is “I have a need to give back as I have been so blessed in life.” What makes Debbie exceptional as a philanthropist is not that she gives, but she inspires others to give.  John Quincy Adams quotes, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  Debbie Aragon – State Farm is the definition of a leading business in philanthropy in the Yampa Valley.

charlie harrington

Long before he was accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Charlie Harrington has been giving back to the Steamboat community. He shares that, “growing up with two parents who served in the military, my motto has always been service above self.”  Growing up with a close family friend with a disability prompted Charlie to start volunteering his time with Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS) while in middle school. While assisting youth with the water ski camp, Charlie recalls, “You’ve never seen so many smiles in one place,” and reminisces about the friendships that were made socially and emotionally through his four summers working at the camp. One friend, in particular, sticks out in his memory.  This friend was too timid to go near the water but over the course of the week-long camp, with Charlie’s mentorship, he was solo water skiing.  Julie Taulman, the Executive Director of STARS reflects, “Charlie is an exceptional mentor and counselor for our clients. He is caring to everyone and there were no challenges that he would not take on,” including mentoring a nonverbal client with whom he built a special bond.  Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman notes, “The positive relationships Charlie has built with the young people he works with carries over to the halls of the high school and into the entire community.” Charlie is also active with the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club as well as numerous other volunteer efforts. He follows in his father’s footsteps as a leader with the Rotary Club, recently being nominated as the Vice President of RotarACTION, leading the creation of an app to help young Rotarians connect to service projects in their community and recruiting the next generation of Rotarians to give back. Charlie shares, “Community is a group of people who support one another and are committed to helping each other succeed and thrive.”  As Charlie heads off to West Point, he will continue to serve our country and make Steamboat proud.

2016

IMG_1575

I WANT TO SEE MY COMMUNITY GROW AND BE VIBRANT AND YOU CAN’T DO THAT WITHOUT CHANGE

When asked why she loves the Yampa Valley, Paula Cooper Black is quick to answer. “It is the sense of community.” One can feel the passion in her voice as Paula tells stories of generosity and community support the Yampa Valley has provided her and her family.  Jack Black and Paula Cooper Black moved to this community in the early 70’s. Their past, current, and future acts of philanthropy fuel the spirit of giving and encourage activism.  Jack Black, a founding member of the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club, was very generous, both with his time and money.  He deeply believed that we are enriched by sharing with others. The family joke was that Paula at one time thought Jack had another life, as she often balanced his checkbook and wondered about the checks written to people she didn’t know! As both Jack and Paula are deeply connected to the community, they serve this valley in their own distinctive ways.   Paula has volunteered with the Winter Carnival, Steamboat 200, served on the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Board, Mental Health Advisory Board, Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley Board, and currently serves on the Rotary and Yampa Valley Community Foundation Boards – to name a few. She also served on Steamboat Springs City Council from 1988-2000. “I sought the limelight not for ego, but for community”, states Paula.  John Kerst recalled the story of when Paula was on City Council and she badgered him to donate the 18 acres of land that currently is Rotary Park. Paula then went out and helped to raise the money to plant trees, buy picnic tables, and install a watering system to keep the park green.   Paula is a self-described outside agitator. The community would describe her as one of those unique people who gets things done. Paula isn’t afraid to look towards the future. “I want to see my community grow and be vibrant and you can’t do that without change.  Young people are the instrument of change.” Paula can be found presenting to the Leadership Steamboat class on an annual basis – continuing to spark energy and empower the next generation in the Yampa Valley.

IMG_1610

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE ANIMALS, NOT THE BUSINESS

Unintentionally this past January, Rory Clow stumbled across a baby goat on a local ranch that was born with white muscle disease, resulting in paralysis of its back legs. The kid goat was unable to tuck his legs under his body for warmth, and sustained 4th degree frostbite on both back legs. The owner of the goat intended to put him down, but Rory was able to arrange for his adoption. Dr. Lee Meyring graciously acted as an advisor on whether to keep the kid goat alive, and then, knowing the adoption was an unplanned addition to Rory’s life, he donated his personal time. Thanks to Dr. Lee and all the staff at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital, the kid goat is alive and walking today. This is just one story detailing the compassion, philanthropy, and service the Steamboat Veterinary Hospital has provided to the Yampa Valley since they opened their doors in 1952.  This standard of philanthropy began with Doc Utterback and continues with the four current veterinarians, Dr. Natalia Stiff, Dr. Mike Gotchey, Dr. Lee Meyring and Dr. Nate Daughenbaugh, all who never stop giving of themselves and their services.  Not only does the clinic donate thousands of dollars annually in sponsorships into our community, they provide countless hours of services.  The clinic donates veterinary inspections for the annual Northwest Colorado Bull Sale and the annual Routt County Fair.  They provide veterinary services to the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series, the 4th of July Ranch Rodeo, Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation, and to the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation.  Steamboat Vet has established a fund to help with special need situations and provide kids a break with the cost of animal care.  This is only a glimpse at their sense of community and ongoing philanthropy. Steamboat Vet states, “It is all about the animals, not the business”. Anyone who has entered through the hospital’s doors knows this statement to be true.  Mindy Falzarano, of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation, states, “I don’t think people realize how much they all do to help the animals in our community. We are incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing veterinary hospital in Steamboat that is staffed with a wonderful team of people.”

IMG_1367

“AS I TEENAGER YOU GET SO WRAPPED UP IN THE DAY TO DAY, I WANTED TO FOCUS ON WHAT I WILL BE REMEMBERED BY”

Annie Osbourn has always identified herself as an athlete.  Playing for Steamboat Springs High School – Osbourn was named all–league honorable mention in volleyball and earned a first-team Western Slope honor in basketball.  However, Osbourn suddenly had to learn what defines you can change overnight when she suffered her first torn ACL injury. She wasn’t able to do the things she loved to do. Instead of sitting back, Osbourn took this as an opportunity to change what defined her.  “As I teenager you get so wrapped up in the day to day, I wanted to focus on what I will be remembered by”, states Osbourn.  While in high school she was a member of Link Crew, Student Council, National Honor Society, and captain of the varsity volleyball and basketball teams.  She has contributed her time to the Boys and Girls Club, Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS), and as a youth basketball coach.  Even with this impressive resume, it was through Osbourn’s work with STARS that provided her with the opportunity to redefine herself. “I could now identify as someone who is nice, helpful, and cares about things outside of myself.   It put thing in perspective and was life changing.” Working with STARS, Osbourn truly found joy.  Her commitment to others shines as Kelly Erickson, Osbourn’s social studies teachers explains, “She is hard-working and devoted to exceeding any expectations placed upon her. She is never pretentious, despite her impressive athleticism and exceptional school record. Annie is gracious, accepting and genuine and I look forward to hearing about the ways she continues to positively impact her community with these impressive skills in the future.”  Osbourn will begin the next chapter of her life this fall at Colorado Mesa University to study Exercise Science.

2015

Glen & Stef Traylor

“We give because we want to be a part of the solution. Giving back is the most efficient and effective way to learn about the strengths and challenges of your community, which allow you to be a part of building its future.”

When Glen and Stephany Traylor moved to Steamboat Springs, they wanted to make philanthropy part of their business and develop community trust through charitable giving. “What a great way to get to know where you live by getting involved and giving back”, remarks Stephany. Since their arrival, both Glen and Stephany have become actively involved in the local community.  Both have participated in Leadership Steamboat, served as the Chair of the Young Professionals Network (YPN) and been involved with many local nonprofit organizations including Rotary, the Yampa Valley Medical Center, Routt County United Way and others. Through their involvement with YPN, they have planned and participated in many community service and fundraising events for organizations like Partners in Routt County, Lift-Up, Routt County Riders, Free Concert Series and STARS. Through their business, Ski Butlers, they have sponsored many of these events.  In addition, to inspire others to give, they have implemented a program that encourages their employees to give back by providing them with two hours of paid time each month to participate in community service endeavors of their choice.  However, most impressive is Glen’s leadership in the creation of Yampa Valley Gives through his Leadership Steamboat class. This successful project, which coordinates with Colorado Gives Day, raised $400,000 for Routt and Moffat County organization in a single day. Glen continues to Chair this event as a volunteer. Both Glen and Stephany credit their success to being surrounded by good people.  “Within two weeks of moving to town, we felt at home because of our connection to the local people,” comments Glen. “We are fortunate to be part of a network of people who give. They allow us to do more.”

Honey Stinger

“We are very proud to be located in Steamboat Springs and want to support the community that supports us”.

When Bill Gamber learned that his companies were selected as Philanthropist of the Year, his response was, “We’re not worthy!”  The businesses typically tries to fly under the radar with their charitable giving, however, that can be difficult when every silent auction in town has a number of their donated products.  Even though they support many organization with their in-kind donations, Gamber believes their business can have a greater impact through focused efforts.  Employees are encouraged to support the United Way campaign through workplace giving and the company will match their donations. In addition, employees are given three days to volunteer in the community with charities of their choice, including company-wide efforts like Adopt-A-Highway clean-up days.  The business has developed a partnership with Partners in Routt County where they not only support their programs financially, but also actively assist in the recruitment of mentors in the community.  Also, they have created a relationship with the Steamboat Soccer Club that supports their efforts including helping families that cannot afford the costs of their jerseys. Their biggest effort is the creation of the Steamboat Stinger, a very popular mountain bike and trail running race, which raises over $5,000 for Routt County Riders. They are proud to be a home-grown business and appreciate the support and recognition they received from the local community. “As we grow, we have become more organized and deliberate about our charitable giving,” states Gamber. “We are very proud to be located in Steamboat Springs and want to support the community that supports us”.

Jessica Rossi

“I give because it’s a simple way to make a difference”

For Jessica Rossi, her family has been a major influence in developing a sense of pride in helping others.  Her Papa, Grammie, and Nonie, Jessica’s Grandparents, passed on their passion to the community to her parents, Jessica and her three sisters. Giving back is what the Rossi family naturally does. And that truly shows through Jessica, who recently graduated from Soroco High School. In the last four years, she has given over 495 hours of community service and throughout her lifetime she has given over 700 hours.  Jessica is a member of National Honor Society, Student Council, FBLA, FFA, multiple sports and 4-H.  She has contributed her time to the Yampa Valley Science School, sport camps, St. Martins Catholic Church, highway clean-ups, Literary Carnivals and the Routt County Cattle Women.  On one particular day, Jessica just stopped by the rodeo grounds to see what was happening and ended up spending the entire afternoon helping the local Rotary Club with their flower barrels.  Typically her community service happens in large groups, but she prefers working with individuals where she can pass on her knowledge to younger people.  As stated by Dean Massey, her science instructor, “Jessica’s commitment to public service is well known.  If there is a chance to help the less fortunate or the community, Jessica will not only be the first in line to volunteer, but she will also find a creative way to attack the problem and convince others to join the challenge.  She is the kind of leader who leads by example, and inspires others by the sheer intensity of her drive and enthusiasm.”

2014

BarbaraWinternitz

“Our giving helps our community! Boyd- We give so our community will be a better place.

Boyd Bass and Barbara Winternitz are a couple with a long history of giving in the Yampa Valley. Boyd and Barbara have supported STARS (Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports) for many years by underwriting the costs of STARS camps which bring youth, adults and veterans from around the country, as well as locals, to participate in sometimes life changing recreational activities for people with disabilities.  They also support STARS by providing accommodations for the camp attendees. “Boyd is just the kind of person that if you need something and he has it available he’s going to help you out.” says Craig Kennedy, Program Director of STARS. In addition, they provide housing several times a year for the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra Conductor. Barbara says “Boyd is a bit of a softie, he donates to so many things in town and he will help just about anyone who asks in whatever way he can.”

Barbara is heavily involved in Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA and is Co-Chair of Dancing With The Stars, the organization’s primary fundraiser. Valerie McCarthy, Executive Director of CASA states: “Barbara goes above and beyond and puts her heart and soul into that event; she is a true asset I would never want to lose her. Fundraising, sponsorships, everything; she is incredibly generous in time and financial resources and has an outlook on wanting this community to be healthy and thriving.” Barbara is also a member of the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Grant Commission.

Together they have supported the Community Foundation for many years as sponsors and participants of the IMPACT 100 giving circle program as well as serving on the Community Grants Committee. They are also members of the Foundation’s Passport Club where membership supports the Foundation’s operating budget as well as the annual Community Grants.

Creekside Cafe

We give because we believe in the community of Steamboat Springs and want to add to its success.

Kelly and Jason Landers moved to Steamboat 22 years ago with the intent to stay here for the rest of their lives. They enjoy giving back as a part of their every day philosophy about supporting the community you live in and love, to help it thrive and keep it as wonderful as the time they moved here. Kelly says “We have the ability to give back and we both really want to, and we try to instill that in our kids. My little son once bought a moose for $190 at a silent auction because I let him get away from me for just a minute, and he didn’t know how it worked exactly, so the moose still sits in his room.” They support the Challenge Fund for local education initiatives by donating business revenue on a particular day each year. They also have the “Week of Beef” where 100% of sales of beef dishes go to Community Agriculture Alliance. Creekside sponsors Rotary, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and also Cabaret where they take their entire staff each year. Youth soccer and biking, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council events and Tour de Steamboat aid stations are also beneficiaries of their time and donations. Creekside hosts First Friday Artwalk with a different artist every month on display in the restaurant. They have also sponsored the Day of Prayer and they encourage staff to be philanthropic by allowing them to give a Gift Certificate to any organization at any time. Kelly has served on the Mainstreet Steamboat Board as well as Promotions Committee. “We are always open to supporting a variety of events and causes in the community, and we try to bring it forward to them rather than them feeling uncomfortable having to ask. There’s so many amazing people doing amazing things in this valley to support each other, and if we can help them achieve their goals, we feel really good about it.” says Kelly. “We also really love our staff and we try to encourage and support them and provide them with not just a job, but a secure year round place of employment. It’s important to Jason and I that they can count on us.”

Meg-O'Connell

I give because I was given. I give because I love smiles

Meg O’Connell is a senior at Steamboat Springs High School.  For the past five years, Meg has baked and decorated birthday cakes for clients at Horizon’s Specialized Services, taking particular care to follow theme and flavor requests.  “I’m not exactly a Cake Boss, but I get it as close as possible.” She is the High School Representative on the Board of Directors of Advocates Building Peaceful Communities, where she helps with fundraising and educating youth on dating and sexual violence and harassment prevention. Meg is also a member of Interact Club (a program of Rotary) and has volunteered on a service trip to Aqua Prieta, Mexico for the past four years – where volunteers deliver necessities and presents to orphanages.  In the past three years, Meg has also assisted in organizing the trip, raising funds, and securing the items needed for the orphanages.  Meg was a Conferee at the 2012 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, designated for her skills in leadership. On top of these service activities, Meg is a member of the National Honor Society and the Eco Club at Steamboat Springs High School.  Meg is captain of the Nordic Skiing and Cross-County Track teams at her school, works at the Dreamboat Café at the Old Town Hot Springs and holds an internship at Klauzer and Tremaine Law Firm. Meg’s peers describe her as dedicated, reliable, and pretty much a “genius”.  They recognize that she is hardworking and always ready to challenge herself to be the best she can be.  Meg was a winner of the Steamboat Springs Teen Council Teen of the Month initiative. “I feel so honored and humbled to be acknowledged with a group of people who are so giving and philanthropic. I am so excited to go on to college and continue to serve in the community and use the skills I have already learned in my future philanthropic endeavors.”

2013

Rod & Vicky Hanna

“It’s not just about the money. We hope through our volunteer efforts we have helped improve public welfare and quality of life for others.”

Rod and Vicky Hanna have a passion for their community – Rod for the arts and business nonprofits, Vicky who believes that children are the best asset for the future and feels that families are the greatest part of the Yampa Valley. In the mid 70’s they arrived in Steamboat from different directions, Rod from Kansas City, Vicky from Palm Springs. Marrying in the early 80’s, they believed they could make a difference, and set about becoming involved.

Rod has volunteered on a variety of nonprofit Boards and has taken a leadership role as President or Secretary Treasurer in many of them. For 31 years he has been a member of the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club, having achieved some of the highest accolades within the organization, let alone initiating the successful $400,000 Rotary Yampa River Boardwalk Centennial Project. He has served with the Economic Development Council, Local Marketing District, Steamboat Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Community Agriculture Alliance, and the Steamboat Art Museum, availing those groups of his well-known and highly tuned marketing skills. In addition, for 33 years he has donated hundreds of pieces of his photography artwork and photography books to benefit various organizations and fundraising events.

Vicky has been involved in Boys & Girls Club of NW CO since its inception. Vicky is proud of the impact they have made on both the Steamboat and Craig communities. Juvenile delinquency has been markedly reduced, with 55% of Steamboat’s youth now involved with the Club. “We know from the feedback of parents that we are improving their quality of life by decreasing their stress knowing their kids are safe and learning while they are still at work. The children also acquire life skills through groups like Miss Manners and Cowboy Ethics.” Vicky also volunteers for Sunshine Kids, and is known for her vocal cheerleading of all community improvement initiatives and telling her real estate clients who ask how they can help, to just simply go out and volunteer.

Rod started and managed the Walker-Lundquist Invitational Golf Tournament which ran for 15 years starting in the 80’s and benefitted the Steamboat Arts Council until it was diverted to funding the Doak Walker Memorial Fund held at the Community Foundation. Rod directs the Fund which distributes eight scholarships each year to local youth. Rod and Vicky have made many financial contributions as well, but state “It’s not just about the money. We hope through our volunteer efforts we have helped improve public welfare and quality of life for others”.

Yampa Valley Bank

“We focus strongly on our community because we feel the true reward comes to those who are doing the giving.

Yampa Valley Bank is not only committed to its customers and the community, but also focuses on enriching the lives of its employees through encouraging active participation in the community. The officers, directors and staff serve over 25 nonprofits and community groups, in diverse roles from board members to ambassadors, presidents, treasurers, fund raisers, team leaders and volunteers. PJ Wharton, Bank President and CEO, oversees the philanthropic activities of all employees. “If the staff are not directed to participate but rather are allowed to choose something they are passionate about as individuals, their commitment is even stronger, which results in a better outcome for the organizations they choose to serve.” The Bank’s philanthropic contributions are diverse and focus on fun and inclusion. From a staff team participating in the Penguin Plunge, to the Bank sponsoring the July 4 Parade, Winter Carnival, Moffat and Routt County Fairs, Strings Concert Series and others, they are involved in events that touch the lives of many in Routt and Moffat counties. Yampa Valley Bank hosted its annual “$10K Day” for United Way in 2012 and far surpassed expectations by raising $39,000 in a single day for the health and human services organization. Employees are also allowed paid time off to help with and participate in service groups and events such as Relay for Life, Rotary, Habitat for Humanity, Ride and Ski 4 Yellow, and Bust of Steamboat, as well as serving on local grant and scholarship committees. Tim Borden, Board Chairman states “We appreciate this recognition; however, we will be as passionate about our community and our staff every year as we are this year. We focus strongly on our community because we feel the true reward comes to those who are doing the giving.”

Kayla Guettich

“Do what you care about, give, be kind, give yourself credit, and do not expect anything in return. People feel like they can’t change the world but you can be as significant as you allow yourself to be. We are all capable of changing something for the better.”

Kayla’s focus in her philanthropic endeavors is primarily empowering youth. She is Vice President of the Youth Rotary program ‘Interact’, Executive Committee member of Grand Futures’ Teen Council, public speaker and representative of It Takes Courage, mentor with Partners of Routt County, and creator of G.R.I.P. (Girls Reaching Inner Potential) girl’s social group. Kayla’s awards in 2013 alone include February Teen Optimist of the Month, United Way Youth Volunteer of the Year as well as Yampa Valley Community Foundation Youth Philanthropist of the Year. In addition to locally, Kayla’s work has taken her to Florida to speak in front of a crowd of thousands, as well as to Mexico and later this year to Africa working in schools, hospitals, orphanages, and with youth groups. The girls empowerment group G.R.I.P initiated as a result of a school project. This spring the first major event of the group was held at Perry Mansfield with self-esteem building games and activities. Kayla and a friend organized and found sponsors for the event themselves and over 70 girls attended. Kayla’s enthusiasm and energy is infectious. The group now has 148 members and is in planning phase to become the new mentorship program in local schools. Advice for living a fulfilled life from this wise-beyond-her-years teen is to “Do what you care about, give, be kind, give yourself credit, and do not expect anything in return. People feel like they can’t change the world but you can be as significant as you allow yourself to be. We are all capable of changing something for the better.”