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Denver Women of Distinction event connects inspiring women to girls

On Sept. 29 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, more than 600 guests gathered, despite a rainy afternoon, to celebrate 10 amazing women for their contributions to the community and to show their support and champion the dreams of girls and women everywhere.

More than $230,000 was raised at the reimagined event, which was back after a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Event chairs were Kelly Brough, Women of Distinction ’14, Donna Evans, Women of Distinction ’09, Luella Chavez D’Angelo, Women of Distinction ’05, and M.L. Hanson, Woman of Distinction ’15.

This year, more than 30 Girl Scouts were involved in the event, connecting Women of Distinction and other community leaders to the impact of Girl Scouting. Four stations – STEM, entrepreneurship, outdoors, and life skills — gave guests an opportunity to try some hands-on, Girl Scout-style learning.

2021 Class of Women of Distinction

  1. Akasha Absher, President, Syntrinsic Investment Counsel– Named to the Who’s Who in Impact Investing and one of Colorado’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women, Akasha has put her finance background to work consulting for nonprofit organizations and philanthropic private clients. She has influenced investment decisions for $500 million in assets by educating and empowering clients and their Boards of Directors.

  2. Dr. Katie Bakes, Medical Director and ER Physician, Denver Health and Hospital Authority- Dr. Katie Bakes is an emergency physician at Denver Health and a Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. Her work as an emergency physician in Colorado’s primary safety net institution fostered her efforts in the areas of violence intervention and prevention, children’s needs, diversity, and social justice.

  3. Kristen Blessman, President and CEO, Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce- Kristen spearheads the organization’s mission of advancing women in business; she was hired in 2017 to bring value to membership through innovation, brand awareness and long-term vision. Through the creation of a new leadership program, mentoring program and unique peer group programming, Kristen has overhauled programming and curriculum at the CWCC and brought a new value proposition to CWCC members and the community. 

  4. Kristin Bronson, City Attorney, City of Denver– As the chief legal officer for the City of Denver, Kristin provides policy and legal advice to the Mayor, City Council, the City Auditor and the Clerk and Recorder, all city agencies, departments, boards and commissions. She is the final decision maker on critical legal decisions facing the city and manages the Department of Law, a public law firm of more than 220 attorneys, paralegals, victim advocates, and staff.

  5. Katie Kramer, President and CEO, Boettcher Foundation– Katie was selected as a Boettcher Scholar in 1993 and has been at the foundation in various roles since 1997, including as the director of the scholarship program and vice president — a title she assumed at the age of 26. She’s been recognized as one of Colorado’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women, is known as an expert in the field of scholarship, and has served the community on various boards.

  6. Kasia Iwaniczko MacLeod, Vice President Community and Government Engagement, Cigna– Named as one of Colorado’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women, Kasia is known as a visionary community thought leader, successfully cultivating relationships across private, public and nonprofit sectors. She leads the expansion of Cigna’s community engagement activities across Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico by deepening civic and governmental relationships, and developing a philanthropic strategy that deploys local community investments where the need is greatest.

  7. Roberta Robinette, President, AT&T– For more than 20 years, Roberta has been a leader in the telecommunications industry and business community, with extensive experience developing and executing public policy strategies for large corporations, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. As president, Roberta leads AT&T’s government and community affairs and supports their new technology deployment and infrastructure investment.

  8. Lola Salazar, President, Salazar Family Foundation– Lola, with her husband Rob, founded Salazar Family Foundation in 1999 with a mission to encourage Denver-area students to achieve their educational dreams. The Salazar Family Foundation has supported hundreds of organizations through scholarships, literacy programs, and classroom grants, totaling more than $20 million gifted to our community.

  9. LaDawn Sullivan, Director, The Black Resilience in Colorado (BRIC) Fund, Denver Foundation– LaDawn has organized and supported social justice and racial equity through her various roles at The Denver Foundation for more than 23 years.  She created and directs the recently established Black Resilience in Colorado Fund. She also leads programs that support emerging leaders of color including the Executive Directors of Color Institute, The Landscape Project, and national Black philanthropic networks. 

  10. Sylvia Young, President and CEO, HCA Healthcare and HealthONE- Sylvia, a veteran of hospital administration since 1985, has been named both an Outstanding Women in Business in health care and a Most Admired CEO. As president and CEO, Sylvia oversees 10 hospitals, 9 freestanding emergency departments, 20 ambulatory centers, and dozens of physician care and urgent care clinics. In 2019, Sylvia was appointed At-Large Trustee of the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees.

The Western Slope Women of Distinction event is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Nov. 4 and will honor three extraordinary women in that region.



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