Push for the Cure raises $500,000 for Craig program

By Joanne Davidson
Denver Post Society Editor

Wednesday, April 03, 2002 -

True, the last thing Denver needs is another fundraising dinner.

But when the cause is good, few can say no.

Such was the case with Push for the Cure. Eight hundred tickets were sold for its inaugural outing last Tuesday night, 740 people showed up, and $500,000 was raised for Craig Hospital's pioneering efforts to help reverse or arrest paralysis and loss of function caused by spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.

Months ago, when commercial realtor Art Seiden approached Craig administrators with the idea of staging a dinner that would raise much-needed research dollars, and thank the doctors and therapists who have helped his wife, Julie, president Denny O'Malley wasn't sure that was such a hot idea.

The world-renowned rehabilitation hospital has two other high-profile fundraisers: the Kappa Book and Author Dinner and the Santa Fe Fiesta, and no one wanted to dilute those audiences.

Seiden, the No. 1 sales producer for Fuller & Co., assured the Craig brass he'd draw from a different pool - friends and business associates who had gotten to know about Craig only after Julie was admitted following a 1996 horseback-riding accident in Arizona.

Julie had sustained a serious spinal cord injury, complicated by a stroke, that left her hospitalized for three months in Tucson. Once she was stabilized, she was transferred to Craig for four months of rehabilitative therapy.

Denver Broncos quarterback Brian Griese, who had taken onetime Craig patient Jayne Uber to her high school prom, signed on as honorary chairman, while 26 of Seiden's well-connected friends - including Fuller & Co. president Don Kortz, Robert Silverberg of Vectra Bank Colorado and Leslie Fishbein of Kacey Fine Furniture - agreed to serve on the dinner committee.

Claes Hulting and Ake Seiger, doctors from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, where Dr. Craig Falci, Craig's senior neurosurgical consultant, performed the world's first spinal cord tissue implantation, flew in for the occasion, bringing another special guest: Peter Forsberg from the Colorado Avalanche. Hulting and Forsberg are friends, and the Swedish doctor called Forsberg the day before Push for the Cure and told him this was a cause worth checking out.

Actor Christopher Reeve, also paralyzed in a horseback riding accident, sent a taped message of congratulations and encouragement.

"This is successful beyond our wildest dreams," O'Malley said as guests filed into the Marriott Tech Center. "Art and Julie are a very special couple, and their friends came through."

Those friends included former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur Atler and her husband, Larry; the founder of Fuller & Co., John Fuller, and his wife, Jeannie; Irwin Horwitz; Dr. Lester Butt; former Seiden neighbors Al and Karen Schmidt; Chuck Haskell and Barbara Knight; Craig board member Bob Butterly and his wife, Janie; jeweler Steve Rosdal; Janey and Don Lozow; Faye and Wayne Gardenswartz; Craig's medical director, Dr. Dan Lammertse; Steve and Melissa Elken; Carol and Jim Schmidt and Saul Rosenthal of SFR Public Relations.

This and that

The Denver Design Center, normally open only to the trade, is having an open house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. There'll be speakers and seminars (call 303-733-2455); the $10 admission goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Also on Saturday, Colorado NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) is having its 20th annual Choice Celebration and Auction at the Marriott Tech Center. Tickets are available from Vanessa Martin, 303-394-1973, ext. 15 The American Diabetes Association's second Women of Valor Luncheon on April 25 will honor Elinor Katz (education); Wilma Webb (government); Martha Kelce (philanthropy); and Dr. Georgeanna Klingensmith (diabetes). Patti O'Neal has tickets at 720-855-1102, ext. 7023 AT&T Broadband vice president Robert Willis and his wife, Javonni, are going to chair the 2002 Granny Gala for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance on Dec. 7 in the Seawell Ballroom Nancy Gittelman, past president of Denver chapter of ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists), has been nominated for secretary of the ARCS national board.

Denver Post Society Editor Joanne Davidson's column appears every day except Saturday. E-mail her at jmdpost@aol.com .