A long-time associate of St. Thomas More Hospital and Centura Health, Nancy Bartkowiak exudes positivity, teamwork, and community. Nancy has a heart for her community and her peers, but especially for her hospital. She has held various roles throughout the hospital that have always been grounded in emergency medicine, and she has performed those different functions admirably. Nancy currently serves as Trauma Program Manager, and in the chaotic world of rural trauma medical care, she excels at bringing leadership and organization.
Nancy also has been a leader of the St. Thomas More Hospital community events for many years, performing with precision, excellence, and appreciation for the importance of being visible and giving back. She heads up the 9Health Fair annually, helps with Safety Jam and Boo at the Zoo, and plans participation for many more community events. She not only goes all in, but also encourages other individuals and businesses to fully participate, as well.
Collaboration and teamwork are the heart of everything Nancy does.
Dr. Liz Knies may seem to have the world’s most terrible timing, but when the full story is told, she simply shines with professional talents and personal sacrifice. An emergency room physician, Liz and her husband, Chandler, opened a new business, Rose Injectables, in January of 2020 – just two short months before the global pandemic hit, closing their doors.
Liz immediately shifted gears and worked tirelessly, treating hospitalized covid-19 patients at the initial onslaught of the pandemic. Because of the nature of the many unknowns of the virus, and lack of vaccinations and tested treatments, Liz moved out of their family home for six weeks to protect the health of their young family. It was a great sacrifice, made to fulfill her calling and duty as an emergency doctor, during a time when doctors and nurses were our heroes.
Thinking outside the box guided Ida Seiferd to open her own therapeutic service, offering unique therapies to a variety of people in Southern Colorado. Through her business, Rosamond Therapeutic Services, Ida offers traditional individual and family therapy but also makes a difference for others through equine therapy, yoga, specially-designed clinics and retreats. In her specialized animal-assisted therapy, the human-animal bond is the vehicle for change and healing.
Ida’s passion is helping others create a life worth living and empowering them to heal from trauma. She helps people of all ages work through a variety of emotional, behavioral, and relational challenges.
Ida practices the “pay it forward” approach to inspire generosity and compassion, which positively alters the neural networks in humans. This allows those without insurance to access the powerful benefits of equine-assisted psychotherapy, by removing financial barriers to treatment.
Obstacles that may seem impossible to others have not stopped Julia Bartkowiak from becoming a shining star in our community.
Adopted as a young toddler from an orphanage in Poland along with her two brothers, Julia was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and was considerately developmentally delayed. With her new adoptive family here in the United States, Julia struggled with school but always had an incredible gift with animals.
With help from her parents, Julia fulfilled her dream when she started a pet sitting and dog walking business after high school, caring for others’ pets. Through blood, sweat, and tears, her family helped her open Furry Paws Doggy Daycare in August 2020. This required the complete remodel of an old transmission facility into a welcoming space for dogs and cats.
Julia’s business is booming! Shortly after opening Furry Paws, Julia’s father passed away unexpectedly, but she also has overcome this heartbreak to remain committed to her business and make him proud.
For someone who moved to Florence to find some peace and quiet in her life, Joen Elliott jumped feet first into her new community and now finds her days filled with more than she ever imagined.
Growing up in a family of “treasure hunters,” Joen has enjoyed collecting interesting items from flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales and auctions for most of her life. The thrill of the hunt spurs her on, and she loves the stories behind her found treasures. She opened her own shop, Treasures, in Florence in 2019 to bring joy to others who stumble upon her collections.
Unfortunately, a little over a year ago, the unimaginable happened – her shop, located in one of the most historic buildings in downtown Florence, was one of several completely destroyed in a devastating fire that took nearly 12 hours to extinguish.
But Joen didn’t walk away. Instead, she chose to rebuild and now puts smiles on her customers’ faces in her new shop, Treasures Too.
Once a struggling single mom, Courtney McAvoy has bloomed right where she was planted and now is an integral of the Canon City Police Department.
A Canon City native, Courtney was named Little Miss Blossom for the Blossom Festival in 1987. Thirteen years later she graduated from Florence High School, and later that year, at the age of 18, she gave birth to her daughter, Brystol.
Doing everything she could for her daughter and to make a better life for her small family, Courtney worked several part-time jobs, including waiting tables at various local restaurants. While struggling with her finances as a single mom, Courtney decided to seek assistance from the Colorado Works Program. There, she received an internship with the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office that changed the course of her life.
Adopted at an early age from a remote Chinese village, Olivia Grooters strives to leave an indelible, positive footprint on her school, family, community and church environments. Olivia is blessed with a passion for helping people and a love for the health science professions.
These qualities have been exemplified throughout her life through volunteer activities, tutoring, mentoring, leadership, and church-related activities. A 2022 graduate of Canon City High School, Olivia concurrently received an Associate of General Studies degree from Pueblo Community College in May. She was a member of National Honor Society and highly involved in extra-curricular activities and community service projects. She completed an internship with Fremont County Public Health and Environment, and another internship with the Canon City Fire Department.
Church-related activities include Vacation Bible School, Parents’ Night Out, Young Life Leader, and middle school youth leader. Olivia also completed a week-long mission trip, clearing land to build a Christ-centered children’s camp.
A child driven to be successful in school and in sports may not be an unusual story – but, given what Kiley O’Rourke has been through in her young life, she isn’t typical in any form or fashion.
Despite her humble and quiet disposition, Kiley showed herself to be the true leader she is from a very young age. Whether in school or in sports, Kiley always has been known as one of the most compassionate people around. She always cared much more about her friends and her teammates, than she ever did about her personal accolades.
Now just 22 and no longer playing sports herself, Kiley has turned her attention to her life-long dream of teaching and coaching. She graduated in three short years from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, and returned home to become a third-grade teacher here in Fremont County at McKinley Elementary School. She began her new assignments this fall.
Alyson Payne may be young, but she already has broken through the glass ceiling in one very memorable way! A 2022 graduate of Canon City High School, Alyson was the first female wrestler to ever receive a varsity letter from CCHS.
Also during her high school career, Alyson was heavily involved with the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, where she led with excellence. In school, she was deeply appreciated by her teachers and other staff for her determination, communication skills, leadership, work ethic, and positive risk taking.
Alyson also has spent many hours over the past four years volunteering for St. Thomas More Hospital as well as the annual Colorado Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic, where residents are provided with oral health care services at no cost. During her senior year at CCHS, Alyson completed the Emergency Medical Technician course through Pueblo Community College, but she wasn’t done there – she also completed her training and joined the Canon City Volunteer Fire Department.
Carla Braddy knows there are countless ways to serve her fellow man – and she is deeply involved in so very many of them.
From the downtown business district, to local recreation, to adopting rescued animals, to becoming an organ donor, there is little Carla hasn’t done to create magic in her own community. She even manages to serve untraditional communities in untraditional ways!
Carla naturally serves with time, energy and finances – the traditional ways philanthropists give – but her reach extends far beyond the ordinary. As the owner of two local businesses – Coming Home Realty and The Hive – Carla is a model exceptional woman who supports the work of others, while also ensuring that her own work is done with the utmost of quality and integrity.
Carla has an unequaled capacity for empathy coupled with a stalwart work ethic.
A rare native of Fremont County, Barbara Carochi has spent decades serving her friends, neighbors, and multiple organizations. In fact, she is always doing something for someone else!
Barb started as an LPN, enjoying her nursing career and raising three sons with her husband, Frank. She became Activities Director at St. Joseph Manor in Florence, where she was encouraged to attend school to obtain her Nursing Home Administrator License. She spent many years in that capacity at Progressive Care Center in Canon City before working in Pueblo at Centura Care, where she became administrator of all three Centura facilities in that town.
For years Barbara involved friends and her grandchildren into planned activities such as artwork, music and cooking for her beloved elderly residents. Even after retirement, she continues these activities, giving as much of her own free time as humanly possible.
Friends and neighbors know Barbara is the first to show up on their doorstep with delicious, homemade food when someone is ill or has suffered a loss. She has a life-long heart for service of her fellow man.
Whether folks have known her for five minutes or 50 years, Shirley Troutman leaves an enduring impression on all those she meets. Known far and wide for her service to others, Shirley embraces dedication, work, sacrifice, love, selflessness, willingness to succeed, and passion for everything she does.
Now retired following a successful 35-year career with the Colorado Department of Corrections, Shirley was the connection between her place of work and her community. Almost 30 years ago she lobbied the community to raise funds to purchase land south of Florence to entice the Federal Prison Complex to move in. She also worked hard on the transfer of the old prison gardens for the Pueblo Community College Campus in Canon City. Throughout her career, Shirley was the go-to person at DOC for countless events and fundraisers.
And her career-related activities don’t hold a candle to Shirley’s other work in our community, most noticeably through Canon City High School, E-Free Church, PEO Board, and Parents and Supporters of Military in Fremont County.
As a retired, long-time educator in the Fremont County community, Charlene Lindner has left her indelible mark on entire generations of local young people. She has woven a tapestry of charity, kindness and caring through those fortunate enough to have been under her care and influence.
Moving to Canon City years ago, Char dedicated her life to helping children and spent 39 years as a middle school physical education teacher. Even today, she still has folks come up to her and introduce themselves as previous students, before they tell her of the incredible impact she had on their lives.
But Char didn’t stop there. Once retired from teaching, she began using her many different forms of talent in other ways of helping kids. She has inventively figured out ways to use her many passions in the pursuit of excellence in others.
Megan McCarter is an exceptional role model for girls and young women in our community. She serves as the Director of the Canon City Music and Blossom Festival Pageant, an unpaid position for which she volunteers, and has for the past 20 years.
Megan believes that the pageant is much more than a rhinestone tiara, sash and title. Rather, the pageant allows young women to practice hands-on interview skills necessary for their future, an opportunity to work on public speaking abilities, and teaching them to be comfortable in their own skin by boosting self-confidence – all while making memories of a lifetime!
Winning the title of Blossom Queen in 1999, Megan didn’t stop there. She went on to compete in Miss Colorado USA and Mrs. Colorado pageants, as well – and was ultimately crowned Mrs. Colorado in 2009! That achievement allowed her to represent Colorado in the nationally-televised Mrs. America Pageant, where she placed in the top 10.
The Florence Merchants and the Florence Chamber are alive and thriving thanks to the leadership skills and dedication of Rena Pryor. Despite suffering a couple of difficult years through the covid crisis, both organizations have been led back into the light by Rena’s exuberant work behind the scenes.
Rena was instrumental in working with the Chamber to provide personal protective equipment to Florence merchants so they could continue to operate their businesses throughout the pandemic, and to reopen businesses as quickly as possible.
Retired from the Colorado Department of Corrections, Rena still is as busy as she is big hearted. Not only is she a guiding force behind the Florence Merchants, but she also volunteers at the Bell Tower and is a bee keeper, an artist, and an outstanding quilter. Since 2016, Rena has managed Loralie’s Antique Mall in Florence. With her building engineering background, her talents are as numerous as they are varied – it’s rumored she can build or fix anything!
Jessica Cobler of Cañon City lost her 18-year-old son, Dalton, to suicide in 2014. She has not only found a way to survive, but she is making a positive impact both inside and outside Fremont County. She shares with local schools and organizations the importance of discussing and treating mental health, works to acknowledge National Suicide Prevention Week, and chairs the annual Out of the Darkness Fremont County Walk.
Rebecca Kelly of Cañon City was a life skills and health instructor with the prison system for many years who was honored as Teacher of the Year for a four-state area. In 2009, she went from perfect health to complete kidney failure. She actively sought a kidney donor, creating a Facebook page, YouTube channel, and billboard sign. She worked to bring organ donor awareness locally and was able to receive a kidney transplant in 2015. Although receiving an experimental medication to help keep her body from rejecting the kidney, Becky died the day after she received the news she was a finalist for this Overcoming Adversity Award.
Shelene Royer of Cañon City endured a difficult childhood and was forced to start work at an early age to help with family financials. Overcoming the odds of an unstable foundation at youth, she determinedly put herself through dental hygiene school while raising two children. Today, Shelene has three remarkable children. She and her husband Tony bless the lives of others through mission trips, church, and alleviating the burdens of local school children, experiencing their own difficult childhoods, by running a weekend backpack food program.
Dr. Angela Bellantoni of Cañon City founded Environmental Alternatives Inc. more than 20 years ago to help solve environmental issues in rural areas. In addition to lower-level degrees, she holds a Doctorate from Rutgers University in Environmental Sciences. She also serves her community in many different ways, including leading Fremont Economic Development Corp. as both Director and President.
Carrie Hammel of Cañon City serves as Captain for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, where she commands the detentions division including the jail and all related operations. She began her career in law enforcement as a dispatcher in 1997 and has been promoted to positions of more and higher responsibility over the nearly 23 years since. She is a mentor, counselor, negotiator, and teacher to all those who serve alongside her.
Mary Roberts of Penrose worked with Estes Industries for 46 years in many capacities including assembly line, clerk, marketing manager, rocketry education, and much more. She retired in 2019 but still serves on the Estes Board of Advisors. She has served for 32 years on the National Fire Protection Agency Pyrotechnics Committee and personally has written safety standards for both states and federal agencies.
Elise Green of Cañon City is a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School. She overcame a difficult childhood filled with trauma and was hit by a motorcycle when she was just 6. Her many injuries gave her speech impediments, but she smiled through it all and hopes to use her experiences in the future to return to school for speech therapy to help others. She worked her way through the University of Northern Colorado and came back to Cañon City to teach here.
Luci Grooters of Cañon City is a senior at CCHS. Adopted from China at a young age, she has thrown herself into local culture and has received numerous awards during her high school career. She volunteers for Pennies for Patients and at the emergency room of the local hospital. She runs varsity cross country at CCHS and is a member of the CCHS Encore! 2018 4A State Champion Show Choir. Luci carries a 4.3 GPA and already has received scholarships for college.
Katie Romano of Cañon City serves as the Fremont County Communities That Care Coordinator. She has brought the CTC program back with renewed energy and verve, engaging new community members while re-engaging existing members across our multi-generational community. She has served mission trips to Rwanda and was Senior Speaker at Augustana College in South Dakota. Her 2017 commencement speech was devoted to finding fluency in life’s passion while remaining humble and perseverant.
Jane Anne Carver of Florence is a nurse by trade who has a heart for children. She worked as a school nurse, where she introduced both drug-and-alcohol and sex education classes into the Florence Penrose School District. She continues to work diligently with formal organizations including Heart of Colorado Court Appointed Special Advocates, two local nursing homes, the Methodist Church of Florence, and Sangre de Cristo Hospice.
Michelle Hyatt of Florence devotes time to endeavors that help nurture children as they grow. She volunteers at Florence schools with many different programs and also works with the historic Rialto Theatre as director, producer, actress, Children’s Theatre creator and coordinator, and event planner. She also works with Fremont County 4-H and served as a board member for Heart of Colorado Court Appointed Special Advocates.
Elgerine Ready of Cañon City has served her community through a local funeral home for almost the past 50 years, offering love, support and compassion to those experiencing the most difficult time of their lives. She also volunteers through Fremont Civic Choir, Grandview Christian Church, and Christian Women’s Club. Her many talents earned her the honor of performing with her church choir at the Vatican.
Elise McBride of Cañon City is the Worship Leader at Catalyst Church. She works with more than 300 people through her role as leader as well as that of pastor’s wife. She volunteers for and helps lead community events including Hope for the Holidays and Night to Shine. She is an expert on rounding up volunteers who happily sign on to her events.
Norma Moore of Cañon City is a long-time member of the First United Methodist Church of Cañon City, where she serves in many capacities including Vacation Bible School and Saturday Supper. She is a volunteer tutor with the Cañon City Literacy Center and owns her own business through Arbonne International. She also works tirelessly to help eliminate animal cruelty.
Nancy Silengo of Cañon City helped found Mountain View Core Knowledge School, where she later served for years in both teaching and administration. She and her husband provided a foster family for children in need in Fremont County for 15 years. She is a member of E-Free Church of Cañon City, where she serves selflessly on many different levels.
Diana Armstrong has brought a high level of success to her position of office and property manager for the Fremont Economic Development Corporation. She helped bring the TechSTART facility to the community, and successfully wrote grants worth more than $750,000. She actively volunteers with other organizations to bring successful events to our community. Diana has a journalism degree and previously served as a journalist reporting Florence news while raising her two sons. With her husband, Mike, Diana owns and operates Westward Machine and Tool, Inc., located in Penrose. Diana is a dynamic force for changes that bring prosperity, community spirit and sustainability to the Fremont County community. Her career achievement is a reflection of her dedication, ethical standards and commitment to service.
Marcy Epperson, CCHS history teacher and coach of both cross country and track, is an inspirational role model and mentor to her students. Starting with a degree in social science and secondary education, Marcy enhanced her career by earning a master’s degree in psychology. She is dedicated to leading, guiding and inspiring her students. She teaches her athletes healthy habits for developing strong bodies and meaningful friendships, including the establishment of weekly hosted team dinners. Marcy lives by example, having raised $2,600 for Team for Kids charity during her 2017 run in the New York City Marathon, which coincided with her 45th birthday. Marcy possesses the ability to motivate, educate and inspire all her students, regardless of their ability, popularity or congeniality.
Rosalyn Walker is a health care provider with exceptional talent that benefits the entire community. Her background as Forensic Nurse Examiner Program Coordinator at St. Thomas More Hospital gave her the foundation necessary to bring various community and governmental agencies together to provide services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She was instrumental in developing the Kindred Kids Child Advocacy Center to provide a central location with a comfortable environment where children can speak to authorities about traumatic events. This setting helps mitigate painful emotional impacts that can be associated with the investigation of assault. Her achievements have united community agencies and continue to benefit victims of trauma and tragedy, promoting and effecting healing in meaningful and nurturing ways.
Sandi Allen is a gentle, thoughtful, humble woman who has used her own experiences in adversity to benefit others. She turned her own battle with breast cancer from a private tragedy to a very public experience by helping establish the local Orchard of Hope Foundation. It improves the quality of life for Fremont County cancer patients and their families, through financial assistance to offset the indirect costs associated with the cancer treatments. She continues to volunteer her time with the Orchard of Hope, which has raised and given away more than $1,000,000. Sandi never seeks recognition for her generous contributions. Instead, she turned her adversity from her successful cancer battle into a tremendous blessing for others, making her a true community inspiration of hope.
Kinsey Larsen is an exceptional and brave teenage woman who has battled painful juvenile rheumatoid arthritis her entire life with strength and determination. As an avid dancer, she is the model of a contradiction to her adversity. She faces and overcomes pain on a daily basis to become not only the best possible dancer, but to be a loving, successful person. An inspiration to others, she is determined to pursue her life and dreams and has turned her physical ailment into fuel for her fire, rather than allow it to dampen her ambitions. Her resilience, tenacity, and grace are demonstrated in her dance and her other achievements. Kinsey finds much happiness in her courageous life and is destined for something amazing; she is truly overcoming her personal adversities.
Linda Mulder has endured adversity on many fronts, always remaining steadfast in her faith. She constantly ignores her own ailments to focus and assist others with the troubles in their lives. Linda saw her daughter tragically succumb to cancer and now helps her husband, daughter and grandson through their own physical challenges. Linda learned sign language to be able to communicate with her grandson and engages him in various projects. She approaches life with strength of spirit, courage and faith, remaining active in church and helping with the children’s ministry. She doesn’t give up and has become an inspiration to many, an example of Christian charity and devotion, and a woman worthy of recognition for the manner in which she approaches and handles life’s challenges.
Sasha Dierdorff is a 23-year-old woman who is deeply connected and involved with her Florence community. She is a confident, smart, witty graphic designer and Florence administrative assistant and Police Department events coordinator, who can’t seem to find enough ways to volunteer her time and talents to help others. She offers her incredible graphic design talents to others through a company she started at the young age of 16. She is the mother of a bright, kind 4-year-old daughter. Sasha has a selfless nature and generous spirit. She is dedicated to public service, and with her nurturing spirit, has achieved more in her young life than most who are twice her age. Sasha is a true rising star.
Alyssa McGlamery is a compassionate, bright, and thoughtful young woman who loves life and is destined to fulfill a life of excellence. Academically, math is her passion, but she fills her challenging course schedule with a broad range of subjects and teaching styles. She is self-motivated and optimistic with a strong set of independent thinking skills. Aly uses her organizational and interpersonal skills to navigate through life with confidence and grace. She is involved in many CCHS organizations and volunteers in her community. She possesses an innate ethical compass, never hiding the truth to deceive, nor breaking the rules to gain advantage. She is a young woman of great character who truly is a rising star to greatness in her future endeavors.
Emily Reynolds is an ambitious, bright young woman of strong character whose strongest motivation is helping others. A senior at CCHS, with a love of learning and an excellent academic record to prove it, she often challenges herself to tackle difficult topics and subjects, standing out among her peers. Her many accomplishments include various extra-curricular activities, where she is nearly always elected into leadership positions. Emily possesses a strong work ethic as a disciplined student, yet also tirelessly volunteers. She participates in defining curriculum, schedule and cultural policies through her student service on the Colorado Association of School Boards. Emily is destined, as a rising star, to achieve great things and will surely be an inspiration and positive influence to others.
Kathy Herrin made Cañon City her home 36 years ago, and her contributions since then are immeasurable. She has spent an entire career in law enforcement, following her heart to develop and run various programs to connect law enforcement with the community, including Kids & Cops, Neighborhood Watch and Citizens’ Academy. Kathy became Victim Services Coordinator and also trained professionals on victim rights, mental health first aid, and victim advocacy. She also finds time to act in, write and direct local plays and melodramas. She demonstrates a firm work ethic and is a true example of how to successfully interact and get along with all kinds of people, through kindness, professionalism, humor and commitment to serve her community to make it a better place for all.
Beth Katchmar is a conscientious, gracious and charitable woman who may be best known for owning and operating Pizza Madness. With her husband, Colby, she also owns other food service businesses and numerous rental and real estate properties. She treats her employees as family, caring for and supporting them through times of adversity. She generously provides food and shelter for the needy and employment for the less fortunate, and she also supports fundraising efforts for most every local charity and service organization. Beth also volunteers countless hours for community causes. The mother of three, Beth is humble and downplays her significant contributions to the well-being of so many in the community as she works to improve the quality of life of all she encounters.
Laurie Trindal is on a mission to feed hungry people in Fremont County. As a founder, former director and president of the Fremont County Pantry, Laurie started the mission that includes giving away hats, coats, gloves, personal hygiene products, school supplies and pet food. Laurie dedicates uncounted volunteer hours acquiring and distributing food, fundraising, raising community awareness, and complying with the requirements of Southern Colorado Care and Share, the oversight organization for the Pantry. The Pantry serves between 350 and 400 families a month. A woman who always is looking for more ways to help others without regard for personal gain, Laurie is one of those unsung heroes who have made a difference in the basic well-being of countless community citizens.
Carie Canterbury is a trusted veteran reporter for the Cañon City Daily Record. As a local native, she is proud of this community and cares deeply for its citizens, history and culture. Carie’s appreciation and respect for her community is consistently demonstrated in her ethical, factual, and accurate reporting, written with sensitivity and toughness. An award-winning journalist, she reports on a diverse range of topics, from government and crime to cultural events and human interest. Carie manages to perfect the balance in her life, reporting on the people, events, and issues in the community and demonstrating depth of character, comprised of integrity, empathy and desire to acquire and share information and important stories with others, every day.
Linda Carlson is a generous, compassionate woman whose contributions and service to her family, community and the less fortunate, as well as health, education and culture are unsurpassed. Highly educated, Linda earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry. She speaks five languages, plays the flute and piano, and is an accomplished fine artist. Valuing education, she is an earnest supporter of all forms of education and often is a speaker for various organizations sharing information about leadership, international and humanitarian projects. Linda also was one of the founders of Mountain View Core Knowledge School and Garden Park Alternative High School. In addition to raising three successful sons, she also dedicates her energy to international and local service projects. Linda contributes countless hours to many causes.
Vicki Meier began a career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1994 and has demonstrated her depth in character by supporting and contributing to the success of others. An avid mountain biker, Vicki dedicates countless volunteer hours in clinics, teaching, coaching and supporting women who are new to the sport. She is friendly and engaging, showing unrelenting belief in the ability of other women to overcome challenges in cycling sport and life. She also leads the service dog program at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, a duty that allows her to see first-hand how lives are improved through a special relationship with a new service animal. Vicki puts her heart and soul into her volunteer activities and to ease hardships in others’ lives.
Kelly Albrecht has devoted her life to the education of children, doing so with vision, communication, people skills, and the willingness to take calculated risks. No vision is too extensive for Kelly to tackle. She was instrumental in forming the middle school at Cañon Exploratory School, where she currently serves as principal. In addition to her decades of work in the classroom, Kelly also served as assistant principal at Washington Elementary School. Seen by her supervisors, peers, students, and their parents alike as a visionary, Kelly is driven by a deep desire for academic excellence through both student achievement and classroom instruction. Her dedication has allowed her to radiate excellence in her profession.
Sunny Bryant brought her extensive background in financial administration to Fremont County Government a few years ago and quickly moved up from Finance Officer to County Manager. She diligently reorganized departments and services to provide more effective, efficient governance to all citizens. She has developed a Safety and Security Committee as well as an Internship program at the county. Sunny has found creative ways to improve the lives of both employees and residents. In addition to her full-time job and raising a young family with her husband Chris, Sunny also manages her horse rescue program, Sunny Day Rescue, on their small farm with a big heart in Penrose.
Cathy Rabe’s outstanding customer service skills have served her well in her more than 20 years of service in the City Clerk’s Office of the City of Cañon City. A true leader in the governmental organization of Cañon City, Cathy makes it her personal priority to consistently save taxpayer funds when and where she can, including recycling, reusing and downsizing when appropriate. Cathy has an incredible grasp of the business undertaken at City Council meetings. She helps organize meetings as well as provide information and materials for council members, the media, and the public. She is driven to improve and enhance the lives of those in Cañon City and Fremont County.
Joetta Bender had a vision to lead young adults who are felons, prisoners, gang members, prostitutes, and addicts to Jesus Christ to change their lives through the power of the gospel. She turned that revelation into her ministry, Mercy Over Bondage, and now works in clubs and bars, jails and prisons, on the streets and in drug houses to help those who need her. A victim herself of addiction, rape, and other adversity, Joetta now is a true servant to the success of others. Understanding the addict lifestyle, she now encourages and equips her mentees to beat their addiction, give their lives to Jesus Christ, and become the very best version of themselves.
Kimberly Carnevale was a professional athlete working toward her dream of being on the United States Equestrian Team. A devastating accident in 1998 left her with a traumatic brain injury, shattering those dreams and leaving her with new goals – learning once again how to talk, walk, read and write. Soon after, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Through her long journey that included a home invasion, homelessness, health issues, Kimberly never gave up. She created her ministry “K9s for the Kingdom” to educate children about brain injury prevention, suicide prevention, anti-bullying, and more. She helps others pick up the pieces of their broken lives while sharing her incredible testimony and giving all glory to God.
Tristian Radhe survived years of family homelessness, addiction, and abuse after her parents divorced when she was a young child. With no physical, mental, or emotional support, she took care of her younger siblings instead of thinking only of herself. She taught them how to read and tie their shoes; she fixed their meals; got them up for school each day, and even toilet trained the youngest. At the adolescent age of 14 Tristian found herself alone and homeless, yet she took firm control of her own life and managed to graduate from high school when she was only 17. She has continued to support herself while starting college classes with the goal of earning a master’s degree.
Makenzie Konty is a dependable, hard-working, dedicated senior at Cañon City High School and described as an over-achiever and lover of humanity and all things art. Few have accomplished more in Performing Arts at CCHS. Makenzie is equipped with a stellar work ethic and inspires her peers to also be compassionate, responsible, independent, and productive. She looks beyond assigned chores to find other duties just because it’s the right thing to do. In addition to her incredible Performing Arts achievements at CCHS, Makenzie also carries a 4.0 GPA, even with Honors and Advanced Placement Classes. She also volunteers with children. Makenzie truly is a young leader who gives every generation hope in today’s youth.
Ashley Ruth was raised in a dysfunctional home but has fought back with determination to lead her own life. With the help of a new forever family, Ashley now lives on her own and is a devoted mother to her young son. She works in a local doctor’s office, where she is happy and thriving. Ashley managed to break the chains that held her family while refusing to see herself as a victim. Instead, her simple bravery and courage have led her to start a new destiny for herself and her posterity. Ashley is an inspiration, as she shows others it is possible to live the life she wanted, and not the life she was given.
Macy Willis is a born leader who goes the extra mile to encourage her peers to excel in school, sports, personal interests, hobbies, and life. She has been involved in Fremont County 4-H, where she served as secretary/treasurer of her local club and organized multiple community service projects. One of her favorite projects was painting and placing red, white, and blue stakes next to the headstones of veterans in the cemetery on Memorial Day. Macy has been named Student of the Month and was one of five chosen to attend the Colorado Association of School Boards Student Leadership Academy. She now attends Student Leadership meetings and continues to foster new ways of bringing positive changes and growth to students.
Leona Bennett is a relative newcomer to Fremont County, but she threw herself into her new community and immediately found a home by providing her time, talents, and treasure to local nonprofit organizations. Leona first began serving on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Fremont County, where she has been instrumental in raising tens of thousands of dollars and donating countless hours to support youth. She also is deeply involved in Parents of Military, Elks Lodge, New Neighbors, Fremont Community Foundation, and Orchard of Hope Foundation, to name a few. Leona has a heart to give and serves as a blessing to the many organizations that depend on her.
DeeDee Clement is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those who are struggling in the community. As Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes Ministry and New Creations Inn, DeeDee leads the primary resource in Fremont County for those in need of emergency shelter, meals, educational assistance, counseling, and substance abuse relief. She also oversees a food bank, clothing warehouse, financial assistance and transitional housing programs for those trying to get back on their feet. In addition, she serves on other nonprofit boards aimed at assisting those in need. DeeDee sees everyone as an equal and has a heart to give people a hand up, treating all with the utmost respect and love.
Eileen Lakey is a shining light with many years of volunteer service to the community. Eileen is a co-founder of the Cañon Literacy Center, a nonprofit that provides free one-on-one tutoring to local children. Eileen’s sincere commitment and complete dedication as she now serves as Director are changing the lives of the many children in the program. Her personal commitment is at the core of its runaway success. Eileen has dedicated her life to education, first teaching underprivileged children in Denver before teaching in the Florence-Penrose School District for 24 years. She also has ministered to the needs of others in a variety of other ways, but the Cañon Literacy Center is Eileen’s crowning achievement.
Colleen Barton is the perfect
example of how one woman can make a difference in an entire community. She serves as Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Fremont County, yet always finds time to be there for others under any circumstances. With every action, Colleen shows how much she loves this community. She participates in local recycling efforts with a smile on her face and a kind word for every person she meets. She has raised two incredible daughters, much of the time without a father figure in the picture, and now eagerly helps out with her four grandchildren. Never focusing on herself, Colleen supports and contributes to the success of her family, her friends, and her community.
Connie Wahlgren is known as “Granny Scout” to hundreds of young Cub Scouts throughout generations. Serving as den mother and Cub Scout committee leader, Connie fully embraced, loved unconditionally, greeted wholeheartedly with her Southern drawl, and worked above and beyond to create fun and meaningful activities for her scouts. Connie teaches young boys the importance of such character traits as being honest, trustworthy, loyalty, doing a good turn, and being good citizens. Her love for children radiates throughout her life as she embodies the same traits she instills deeply within them. Connie’s passion for life and excellence in character simply make our community a better place to live.
Joann Weaver has devoted her entire life to service and sacrifice, working behind the scenes without complaint or envy. She gave more than a quarter of a century as a second-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, and even today receives accolades and thanks for the impact she had on young lives. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease led to retirement, but Joann still works tirelessly as a volunteer, even creating a support group for local single mothers. She actively seeks out unlucky and unloved children. A myriad of students on the fringe, community children at risk, and orphan waifs with no bed regard Joann as their stabilizing force and the one person who truly, deeply loves them.
Lisa Beicker is a National Vice-President with Arbonne International, a global company with premium brand products with a Swiss heritage. She started her entrepreneurial business in 2002. Lisa soon built her own enterprise into a successful business and now mentors approximately 200 independent consultants and managers. Her influence truly touches thousands of people teaching them how to live a better, healthier life and lifestyle. In 2015 Lisa began working with Loaves and Fishes. She continues her passion for helping people manage their finances and lifestyles. She serves on the Governing Board of Mountain View Core Knowledge School and volunteers at the school. She is not only committed to her own success but the success of all those who come in contact with her.
A commitment to serve with the highest level of professional and personal integrity, devotion to duty, and champion of the rights of the community she serves, are all accolades attributed to Fremont County Attorney, Brenda Jackson. Her depth of legal and institutional knowledge is of enormous value to the citizens of Fremont County. She was instrumental in the many legal and governmental hurdles that resulted in the establishment of a consolidated regional communications dispatch facility for Fremont County. Through her community service, church activities, and seminars on ethics, she has taken the term “public servant” to a new level
Dr. Caterina Spinaris founded the non-profit organization, Desert Waters Correctional Outreach in Florence, after she retired and relocated to Fremont County in 2000.The organization is dedicated to the physical and spiritual health of all correctional staff around the world. After speaking to numerous correctional staff, she coined the term “correctional fatigue” which highlighted the fact that many corrections individuals were suffering ill effect associated directly to the work they did. This concern also extended to those with whom they interacted in the community and their families. Corrections staff began to listen to her theories and apply her concepts. Caterina’s vision and influence has expanded from a small office in Florence to an organization that is known and respected throughout the nation.
Alicia Brady Smith, a 21 year old, talented, intelligent, vibrant dance student attending the University of Arizona, was shot in a gang related incident on October 12, 2008. She endured many life-threatening surgical procedures during her 41-day hospitalization. Although she suffered greatly from the extreme physical and devastating emotional trauma, Alicia was determined to overcome her adversity and pain, strengthen her resilient character and become a better, not bitter, person as she progressed through this life-altering event. She chose to be an example of forgiveness through her prison ministry and an example to others through the publication of her book, Thread.
After quietly ignoring it for some years, Shirley Bendell went public to discuss her experiences of being gang-raped in her early 30’s, an experience that led her to alcohol and prescription drug abuse. Instead of leading her down a dark path, the rape eventually empowered Shirley to become a force in her own right and an advocate for other women. She became a world renowned 6th degree black belt in martial arts utilizing those talents to teach Sexual Assault Prevention to hundreds of local women. Shirley continued her journey by joining AA and counseling others as well as forming groups to empower women through faith-based and other organizations. She graduated from Pueblo Community College, was President of the Student Senate, completed her degree in Television Film Video from USC, Pueblo, and started a television film and video production company. In 1997 she was recognized with the Jefferson Award for her community service and work with women and girls in sexual assault prevention. She passed away, at 66, on February 14, 2014, from complications of a successful bone marrow transplant.
Imagine going to bed as a sophomore in college and waking up totally blind, as Sandy Esposito did. After learning the essential basic mobility skills and the acquiring a guide dog, she completed her education with honors with a double major Master’s degree. Although Sandy was visually impaired, she overcame obstacles in life and constantly sought ways to give back to the community. She and her husband Joey, and guide dog Bobbie, are full-time volunteer representatives for the Guide Dogs of the Dessert. She has supported others in overcoming their adversities and encouraged blind Coloradans and wounded warriors to acquire and be trained in the use of guide dogs and other service dogs. She has sponsored over 43 service dogs over the past eight years. Her faith-based volunteer efforts extended to the Canon City Pregnancy Center as the Volunteer Event Coordinator, where she organized events to fund the Center and its activities.
Sierra Londenberg epitomizes a student leader and Renaissance woman as a member of the Cañon City High School highest level choir, tennis team, volleyball team, and the National Honor Society. She is a 4.2 G.PA. Academic All-State First Team member in both Vocal Music and Tennis. She is a consummate giver of time to charitable causes ranging from community volunteerism to leaf raking for the elderly. As class president, Sierra spearheaded the legacy CCHS Senior Class Gift by convincing her classmates to re-make an inactive quad-shaped courtyard in the middle of the school into a lunchtime sanctuary where students can eat lunch in fair weather. She also began a funding source to ensure that the class vision was fulfilled.
Alyssa Loveless is characterized as a leader and outstanding student, possessing a strong work ethic coupled with a high level of personal integrity. She held several offices in her 4-H Club and has been an officer in the Fremont 4-H Council for several years. She is a mentor for young 4-H members, after-school math tutor, and assists in elementary education classrooms during the day. She received the Ralph Taylor Award this year from the Fremont County Fair Board for her outstanding contributions to the Fremont County Fair. Alyssa participates in both high school volleyball and tennis. She was selected by her teammates as co-captain of the varsity volleyball team this year and could be seen enthusiastically encouraging and supporting her teammates with every play.
Hannah Rhodes is identified as a bright, shining star. At the age of 13 she always has a smile on her face and excitement in her eyes. She is Vice-President of her local 4-H chapter and a 4-H Council Alternate Senior. She recently attended officer training in Pueblo and made the state shooting team. Hannah’s dedication to the local and regional programs in leadership and creative arts is admirable. She is part of the Southern Colorado Middle School Honors Band playing flute and percussion, and she actively participates in the FCT Youth productions. She is an active participant in the school’s Knowledge Bowl, Geography Bowl, and is a member of the Student Council.
Pep Aragon took a vow of poverty 23 years ago, and believes that it’s her mission to go out every day on her bicycle to find the local homeless people and see how she can help. She has spent the last 16 years building relationships with local homeless families and individuals through her Preserve Earth’s Planet advocacy group. Her love and concern is evidenced through her own lifestyle. A horticulturist by training, Pep earns revenue by giving tours of her beautiful one-acre Botanical Garden and from selling her plants in the summer. Every penny she gets goes directly toward helping homeless families and individuals in Cañon City to stay warm, clothed, and fed. Pep works with various support agencies in Fremont County as an advocate for the homeless, tirelessly bicycling all over, to seek help for those in need.
For 30 years Jeri Fry has fought to keep Fremont County’s water and environment from being compromised by toxic radioactive contamination from the local uranium processing mill which is responsible for keeping Lincoln Park a Superfund Site from 1984 to present. She was the co-founder and co-chair of Citizen’s Against Toxicwaste (CCAT) which formed in 2002 for this purpose. In 2005 she began serving on the Lincoln Park/Cotter Citizens Advisory Group comprised of local, state, and national entities to work together to provide solutions to the Cotter Superfund site. She owns and operates her own business, The Cup and Cone Ice Cream Shop. She has an impressive resumé of public service and volunteerism as she strives to improve the quality of life for the Fremont County Community.
Kathleen Kearney has been a powerful advocate and supporter of Fremont County children and families for more than 37 years. She became the Director of the Park Avenue Preschool in 1980 and then transitioned to Starpoint in 1996, until 2013, when she joined the RE-1 School District. Throughout her professional career she worked tirelessly on professional boards dedicated to the health and welfare of children. She currently serves as the chair of the Child Protection Team. Her legacy of community service endeavors parallels her entire professional career. She is the epitome of a true volunteer with her lifetime of community service to Fremont County, its families, and especially its children.
Myrtle Chase, as a young woman, made a commitment to do all she could to help abandoned babies and children. She opened her heart, her home and, frequently, her purse to those in need, especially children. She took in foster children before government support was available. She later worked closely with Social Services to help provide medical, monetary assistance and support services for the children. Hundreds, if not a thousand children, transitioned through her home. Caring for others is an intricate fiber woven into every part of her being.
Kristyn Econome has been characterized as a silent giver and a silent servant. She has anonymously donated food, household items, and financially supported those in need. While taking time off from her teaching career she has used her gifts and talents to garner thousands of dollars through the City of Cañon City and the Lower Arkansas Mountain Biking Association resulting in new biking/walking trails and the Highland Open Space Project. She is a strong advocate for children and serves with Fremont Adventure Recreation and the Fremont County Tourism Council, and is a member of the Cañon City School Board.
Marie O’Leary began her teaching career at the age of 18 in a one-room school house then later taught special needs students in Illinois. Upon retirement, she became a world traveler, circling the globe. In her 90’s she moved to Cañon City and became immediately involved in numerous community and church organizations, which included generous donations to the Cañon City Public Library. She was the “rock” for her family as they suffered through the death of her granddaughter and son-in-law. In 2011, in her late 90’s, she received the Yellow Rose Woman of the Year Award for service to her community for her indelible spirit and generosity to friends and family. Her grace, charm, compassion and wit encourages everyone to strive to live long like Marie, who will turn 104 years young this July.