Mizel Museum honors Sharon Magness Blake

The Colorado Statesman

Elected officials, a Cabinet Secretary, a famous country and western singer, a legendary Denver Broncos quarterback, Colorado’s current governor and two of his predecessors, movers and shakers in the world of business, civic affairs and philanthropy, and so-called ‘regular’ citizens — close to 2,000 of them — congregated May 26 at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver to honor Sharon Magness Blake, this year’s recipient of the Mizel Museum’s Community Enrichment Award.

Mizel Museum honoree Sharon Magness Blake, flanked by husband Ernie Blake, left, and Larry Mizel, right, holds a bouquet of roses as she gazes at the special Kiddush Cup she received as a special gift on May 26.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Thomas W. Honig, regional president and CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, Rocky Mtn. Region, left, and CSU Chancellor Joe Blake at the pre-dinner reception.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Smiling Denver mayoral candidates Michael Hancock, left, and Chris Romer, right, stand alongside host Larry Mizel during the reception preceding the annual Museum Dinner.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
American country music artist Lee Greenwood, seated next to longtime friend Sharon Magness Blake, gives the thumbs-up at the dinner.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Janet Elway, fiancé Kevin Kretzmar and Edie Marks are all smiles after the dinner.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar lauds Sharon Magness Blake for her philanthropy.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Diane Huttner and Larry Mizel have their photo snapped during the reception.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Sharon Magness Blake and Charlie Gallagher enjoy the festivities.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Ellen Premack, executive director of The Mizel Museum, and Larry Mizel await the evening’s program.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Colonel Wolfinbarger, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol; Major Brenda Leffler of the Colorado Information Analysis Center; Larry Mizel, who was made an Honorary Colonel of the Colorado State Patrol for his work with The CELL in enhancing Colorado’s public safety; Major Steve Garcia and Captain Dana Reynolds, also of the Colorado Information Analysis Center.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Judi Wolf, Marvin Wolf, Howard Boigon and former Gov. Bill Ritter were among the 2,000 or so guests at this year’s dinner.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addresses guests at the dinner and talks about honoree Magness Blake.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Longtime friends Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Steve Farber share in the happiness of the evening.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman
Steve Farber, Steve Schuck, Bill Schuck and Bob Beauprez get ready to eat.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Sharon Magness Blake, David and Bonnie Mandarich enjoy themselves.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

The evening attracted a veritable who’s who in politics and business, and featured glowing tributes of Magness Blake from a wide assortment of friends and community leaders who heralded the local philanthropist not only for her giving ways, but for her inspiring words and deeds over the years.

Gov. John Hickenlooper pointed out that Magness Blake is comfortable with the biggest country and rock stars, yet never forgets to credit everyone else who makes it possible for her events to succeed. “To honor her with something like this is so spectacular and long overdue,” he said.

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar praised the honoree for her great generosity and the voice she’s provided for the empowerment of women in the state and across the nation, as well as for inspiring young people to “make sure their God-given abilities are realized in life.”

Larry Mizel, who along with his wife Carol founded the museum 29 years ago, talked about the remarkable perspectives by which Magness Blake has lived her life, growing up in Philadelphia, surviving an abusive childhood, working various jobs to put herself through college and working on a horse ranch in Arizona, where she met her husband to be, Bob Magness.

“Sharon has reinvented how events are done in Denver,” Mizel said, from the Volunteers of America’s spectacular Western Fantasy charitable event every year to various health related causes that she has helped in a multitude of ways. Whether it is working for a cure for breast cancer or prostate cancer or lending her name to numerous other charities, Magness Blake has made a huge difference not only here in Colorado but across the country. “She’s an entrepreneurial businesswoman, she’s kind, compassionate, special, unique, goal oriented and she never stops working,” Mizel lauded. “And she’s very much loved by her family,” many members who were there last Thursday night to personally congratulate her.

And that big country and western star alluded to by Secretary Salazar? That’s Lee Greenwood, the Tennessee-born country crooner who has headlined Magness Blake’s Western Fantasy events over the years. Since it’s inception in 1994, Western Fantasy has raised $16 million to support Volunteers of America in their efforts to help children, families and elderly neighbors in need across Colorado.

Greenwood appeared in a video that night to congratulate his dear friend on the occasion of her award... then surprised her — and everyone else — when he strolled into the dinner, an American flag draped around his body, singing his trademark song, God Bless the USA. Magness Blake greeted him with a huge embrace as guests stood and applauded.

“Wow, it’s as good as it gets,” said an emotional Mizel, who used the occasion to also talk about the role of not only the Mizel Museum, but its sister organizations, The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab and Babi Yar Park, a southeast Denver memorial to victims of world terror and a 30-year-old environmental symbol of the city’s belief that tolerance and compassion can triumph over emotions that lead to hate and destruction.

All three organizations will soon be under a new umbrella organization, explained Mizel, that will allow each, with their own mission and purpose, to flourish. They will continue to advance diversity, speak to global issues and help provide a deeper understanding of the shared past as part of the newly formed Mizel Institute, he said.

“This award goes to all the people who helped along the way,” Magness Blake proclaimed after receiving a special Kiddish Cup from Mizel. The ancient but contemporary icon of the Jewish people means sanctification and is symbolic of the esteem Magness Blake has earned from the community.

“There was always someone there to help me along the way, even if I didn’t know it at the time,” the honoree said. “That has become my goal, to become that someone for others and lend a helping hand.”

Jody@coloradostatesman.com

See more photos of the Mizel Museum Dinner in the June 3 print edition of The Colorado Statesman.