TEDxBreckenridge gives a stage for people to share their experiences with instinct

Films crews capture Kara Napolitano's speech at the TEDxBreckenridge event Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.
Kit Geary/ Summit Daily News

A feeling that couldn’t be shaken away, an inkling to avoid taking action, a sensation that something was off or a compelling desire to take action, despite not having any rational signs it was the right thing to do.

Whatever you might call it, TEDxBreckenridge looked to capture this feeling with their fall event, titled INSTINCT on Saturday, Sept. 30. The event pulled in speakers from around the state, including five Summit County residents. Emceeing the event was Silverthorne’s Adam Maxwell. 

While Maxwell, who works as a host for Outside TV, may have felt natural speaking in front of a crowd that wasn’t the case for all of the speakers. 

Summit County residents Kara Napolitano and Diane Calvin both work for nonprofits and neither considered themselves to be professional storytellers. Yet, they have a passion for the work they do, with Napolitano working to prevent human trafficking and Calvin leading efforts to combat food waste and keep others fed.

For these two their passion, and a desire to have the community know more about their work, helped override their normal inclination to stay behind the scenes. So when they were presented with an opportunity to take the stage at the Riverwalk Center and share their ideas and stories with hundreds of people, they took it. 

 “I mean I speak publicly for a living, training professionals on how to recognize and respond to human trafficking, and then I help them develop protocols, but storytelling, not so much,”  Napolitano said. 

Napolitano works for the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. She seeks to educate people on how human trafficking is present in places they would never expect. 

The event provided Napolitano the opportunity to “myth bust” she said. She is looking to combat the myth that human trafficking does not happen in ski resort towns and inform people about how towns like Breckenridge are breeding grounds from human trafficking. 

“It’s exactly in communities like this where trafficking happens. Where inequality is high and there’s a lot of people who are experiencing housing insecurity or financial insecurity and then there’s a really high number of people who are very wealthy who have the money that wields power,” Napolitano said. 

Calvin’s message fell in a similar vein. She highlighted the area’s food insecurity, which exists in spite of the area’s wealth. Her instincts drove Calvin to continue pursuing a solution to a problem others did not think existed. 

“When I first started out, I had a lot of people telling me that either it couldn’t be done, or it wasn’t needed and that’s where my instinct came in. I just kept trying until I made it work out,” Calvin said. 

In her role at Cafe Food Rescue, Calvin works to redirect surplus food from local landfills when it’s perfectly fine to eat. 

TedxBreckenridge had volunteer speech coaches train all the speakers, which helped Napolitano and Calvin take to the stage with the confidence of professional public speakers. 

The event’s organizers looked to choose a theme that the community could resonate with for the fourth annual event put on by TEDxBreckenridge. 

TEDxBreckenridge hosted its fourth annual fall event Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, at the Riverwalk Center.
Kit Geary/ Summit Daily News

“It’s pertinent to our mountain community particularly because we’re outside so much and I think we’re able to use our instincts a little bit more than maybe other people,” organizer Leah Rybak said. “It could be the instinct to jump when you see a mouse or the instinct to push your body when you’re climbing up a mountain.”

The first TEDxBreckenrridge event came in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers chose connection as the theme in 2020 because it felt fitting for what was happening during a time of lockdowns and isolation. 

Rybak explained organizers were reflecting on 2020’s topic as they contemplated this year’s. They thought about how individual experiences with instinct could have evolved after living through a global pandemic. 

“We were interested in the ideas that people have been sitting with in that time, thinking about and what those instincts were throughout that time and what instincts they use in their lives beforehand,” Rybak said. 

More about TEDxBreckenridge can be found at

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