Seen: Nathan Yip Foundation ushers in Year of the Dog

Ryta  and Steve Sondergard didn’t want anyone to think they were barking up the wrong tree by choosing to usher in the Year of the Dog with the Nathan Yip Foundation.

So they, along with executive director Tarika Cefkin, the foundation’s board of directors and a 19-member planning committee, put together a celebration of grand proportion: a night filled with food, music, shopping and, of course, the traditional Lion Dance.

The Sondergards maintain a residence in Castle Pines but divide their time between Salt Lake City, where he is executive vice president at Sinclair Oil, and Sinclair, Wyo., where she is the company’s community relations specialist. “Thank goodness for the company jet,” she says of their weekly commutes.

Approximately 400 people attended this $225-a-ticket event held at the McNichols Civic Center Building.

As with every event that the NYF hosts, guests came from cities near and far: Shanghai, Tucson, Albuquerque and, of course, Denver.

But the folks considered the most special guests were those representing the schools in rural areas of Colorado that receive funding from the NYF.

The money awarded was used to purchase the first new textbooks that some schools had received in over a decade and things like SMART boards, iPads and virtual reality goggles to enhance high school science and technology courses.

“Rural communities are often overlooked when it comes to funding,” Cefkin noted. “Our purpose is to give voice to concerns like how a lack of teachers can lead to things like four-day school weeks and landscapes where people need a helping hand. We rely on our school partners to inform us of those needs and to see that the money we give is wisely invested and well-spent.”

Colleen Curran, the foundation’s Rural Colorado chairwoman, joined Linda and Jimmy Yip, who started the NYF as a living memorial to their son, Nathan, who died in a tragic automobile accident, in welcoming a group that included Lori Haukeness, superintendent of the Montezuma-Cortez School District; Ernest House Jr., executive director of the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs; Jamie Haukeness, principal of Kemper Elementary School in Cortez; and Cedric and Sherrell Lang, leaders in the Ute Mountain Ute tribe in Towaoc.

Also, Kevin Jones,  principal of Center High School; Brittany Lang, a science teacher at Cortez Middle School; and Joe Wagner, a science teacher at Eads High School.

The evening began with a “night market” featuring clothing, accessories and gifts imported from China and visits to Catering by Design food stations offering such Chinese delights as noodles topped with chicken, dumplings or egg rolls; salmon skewers and, for dessert, egg custard tarts.

An auction, called by Gary Corbett, saw Susan Kiely and Melly Kinnard emerge as high bidders on a seven-day shopping trip in Shanghai hosted by Nathan Yip’s godparents, Kevin and Stephanie Tung, and a delegation from the New Mexico-based Frank’s Supply win tickets to “Hamilton” at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. A sushi dinner to be held at the Yip residence sold three times, for $5,000 a pop.

Others staying on for karaoke and the silent disco were Mike Kalush, president of the NYF board, and his wife, 7News anchor Anne Trujillo, the evening’s mistress of ceremonies; Dean Littleton, the general manager at 7News, and his wife, Amber; Karen Valliant, who will chair the foundation’s Dim Sum Luncheon later this year; Emily and Sam Bacon (he chairs the Friends of Nathan Yip group for young professionals and is a member of the NYF board); table hosts Gayle and Gary Ray; Cynthia and Dr. Larry Chan; Pam Ignat; Marsha Temple; Steve Edmonds and Daniel Kopnisky; Jane and Skip Netzorg; Arlene Mohler Johnson; Jan and Sheldon Steinhauser; Deanna Leino; former NYF board presidents Denise Gliwa and David Thomson; board vice president Okie Arnot; Raul and Elizabeth Gierbolini; Mieko Nakamura;  and James Iacino, whose Seattle Fish Co. was a major sponsor of the fundraiser, and his wife, Meghan.

Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314, and @joannedavidson on Twitter

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