Summit Foundation hosts 25th Annual Philanthropy Awards |

Summit Foundation hosts 25th Annual Philanthropy Awards

2015 Philanthropy Award winners included: back row from left, Dr. Wilson Strong, Tom Keltner, Brad Piehl, Molly Lee, Ed Casias, Andy Lewis, Jack Riley, Mark Burke and John Spierling. Seated from left, Nancy Keltner, Cait McCluskie and Phyllis Martinez.
Joe Kusumoto | Special ot the Daily |

The heart of Summit County was on display as nonprofits and community-minded residents were honored at the 25th Annual Philanthropy Awards. The ceremony was help on Nov. 20 at the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center.

The Summit Foundation bestows honors each year in ten different categories to recognize the contributions made by exceptional groups and individuals in the county. Wells Fargo Bank and Climax Molybdenum also sponsor the awards. The categories include outstanding: board member, citizen, community organization, educator, professional in nonprofit, philanthropists, volunteer, youth, youth mentor and business.

Phyllis Martinez, who was honored as the outstanding citizen, said she became involved with nonprofits starting nearly 40 years ago when she first landed in Summit County.

“It came as a complete surprise and I was a little embarrassed,” she said.

Staring with the Keystone Policy Center, with which Martinez worked with for a total of 11 years, she next helped to start the Breckenridge Film Festival. She currently serves on the Summit Foundation’s board of trustees.

The former president of the film festival, Martinez said one thing that hasn’t changed during her four decades of working in the community is the welcoming and inclusive nature of Summit County.

Another Summit Foundation board of trustee member, Andy Lewis, was honored as the outstanding board member for 2015. The award was based on his work with a number of groups. Lewis said after relocating to the area 11 years ago, he partnered with his wife Sally to volunteer with the Breckenridge Music Festival and Applause. A few years later Lewis joined the board of CASA of the Continential Divide (Court Appointed Special Advocates) before being asked to join the Summit Foundation board in 2009.

“I think the whole evening is an affirmation of how generous and how compassionate this community is,” he said. “If you’re the least bit passionate for the organization then it isn’t work, it’s a true pleasure.”

Judge Ed Casias took home the David Olbright outstanding youth mentor award. Besides coaching youth lacrosse in Summit County, the judge has also worked with Mountain Mentors, which connects adult volunteers with youth ages 8 to 16. He is also active with the Summit-Lake Dillion Optimists.

“The application for the youth mentor award was a combined effort of people I’ve worked with on a lot of different projects,” he acknowledged.

Casias said one perk of his involvement over the years is crossing paths with kids he coached in the past.

“The kids I coached years ago in high school, it’s fun to see there’s that connection,” he shared. “It shows you had an impact.”

In fact, Casias said his entire family has maintained a nearly decade long relationship with a young man they became acquainted with through Mountain Mentors. Although mentorships officially end after the youth graduates high school, the family’s connection has maintained as the young man begins college of the University of Arizona.

“He’s like a son in our family,” he said. “We included him in last year’s family portrait.”

Representing the next generation of philanthropists was outstanding youth award winner Cait McCluskie, who credited a strong support system in her development.

“Getting recognized by my community was pretty amazing, especially considering all they’ve done for me already,” she said. “Growing up in such a tight-knit community like Summit County, I’ve always had so much support from everyone around me, especially teachers, coaches, and friends.”

Her claims of being passionate about extracurricular activities are evidenced by her involvement in hockey, rugby, dancing, speech, debate and theatre.

“I have learned incalculable lessons such as putting others before myself, listening and leading in equal balance, and never giving up,” she said. “I’ve tried to carry these lessons over to my community service activities, especially directing the Summit Middle School play.”

Burke & Riley’s Irish Pub took home the outstanding business honors. Co-owner Jack Riley said being recognized in a community that has an abundance of stellar people involved is no small feat. When the tavern began serving the pubic 11 years ago, Riley said he and partner Mark Burke wanted to make an impact.

“Right from the start we knew we were going to get involved with the town,” he said.

The pub began the Burke and Riley’s Golf Tournament their first year in operation. The event has donated proceeds to support high school athletic programs in the county.

“The first year we raised $15,000,” he said. “The last two or three years we’ve got over $30,000.”

The funds have helped support baseball and football camps where youngsters get to meet professional athletes, as well as purchase uniforms and equipment, Riley explained.

“We’ve also supported the homeless shelter in Denver and the Summit in Honduras,” he said.

Other honorees included: John Spierling as outstanding educator, Molly Lee as outstanding professional in a nonprofit organization, Dr. Wilson Strong as outstanding volunteer, Nancy and Tom Keltner as the Dr. Oliver Stonington outstanding philanthropists and the Education Foundation of the Summit as outstanding community organization.


This year’s philanthropy awards were dedicated to the memory of Rob Millisor. Lewis said the recently departed community leader epitomized the idea of philanthropy. He hopes his example and the example of other community leaders will inspire the next genereation of philanthropists.

“All of us that are community minded are trying to get a younger generation to feel that,” Lewis said. “I have never learned how to say no.”

Noting the abundance of positivity in Summit County, Martinez feels fortunate to reside in the mountains. She singled out the Family Intercultural Resource Center and the Summit Community Care Clinic as two groups doing exemplary work in the county. With new people always moving into the area, she recommends getting involved as the best way to meet folks.

“Getting involved in a non-profit is a quick way to get connected to the community,” she said.

Summing up her vision of volunteerism, Martinez mentioned a Gandhi quote to explain what many gain from giving of their time and energy.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” she quoted.

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