Thank You for Making Our 2009 Flame of Hope Gala A Success!

 Students at the 2009 Flame of Hope Gala in Denver, Colorado

Neither, rain, nor sleet, nor 18 inches of snow could stop supporters of American Indian education from turning out to celebrate the American Indian College Fund’s 20 years on Wednesday, October 28 at the Seawall Ballroom of the Denver Center of the Performing Arts. As more than 18 inches of snow accumulated outside, more than 300 supporters, American Indian students, and tribal college officials came to testify to the miracles that tribal colleges are producing across Indian country, and raise more than $400,000 for American Indian scholarships and support.

Guests enjoyed gourmet hors d’oeuvres buffets, desserts, and a silent auction of Indian artwork by some of the nation’s finest living and historic artists, including a collection of rare Edward S. Curtis photographs.

Hattie S. Kauffman of the CBS Morning Show served as mistress of ceremonies. Actress Irene Bedard, a celebrity co-chair of the event, was in attendance. Other program highlights included a fancy dance performance by national award-winning dancer Tanski Clairmont (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), and a showing of the video Hope on the Rez, produced by the Fund’s pro bono ad agency partner Wieden+Kennedy. The Fund’s new television public service advertisement, telling the story of how tribal colleges and American Indians are providing solutions to the world’s challenges, was also shown. The advertisement, titled Think Indian, was also produced by Wieden+Kennedy, and features the music of rock musician Neil Young.

Richard B. Williams, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, presented the Flame of Hope Award to the Castle Rock Foundation for its support of American Indian education and supporting tribal college and university staff since the early 1990s. As a symbol of appreciation in the traditional Native show of respect and caring, Williams wrapped John Jackson, Executive Director of the Castle Rock Foundation, in a Pendleton blanket, with the help of Bradley Pecore, a recipient of Castle Rock’s Student of the Year Scholarship and Institute of American Indian Arts graduate.

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Above, Oglala Lakota College graduate Stephen Yellowhawk (Cheyenne River Sioux/Iroquois), a Coca-Cola Scholarship recipient from the American Indian College Fund, spoke to the guests about how a tribal college education transformed his life, gave him purpose and led to his career as a teacher and a mentor, and helps him to serve as a role model for American Indian youth. He spoke of his goal is to teach at a predominantly Native American school and earn a master’s degree to become a leader in Indian Education.

The evening concluded with a performance by the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, who rocked the crowd with several of her hits and a selection of Motown favorites.

The 20th anniversary Flame of Hope Gala was sponsored by USA Funds, Coca-Cola Company, Nissan North America, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Toyota Motor Sales, Ford Motor Company, Allstate Insurance, UPS, Milberg LLC, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Brian & Vivian Henderson, Richard & Heather Black, Sheryl & Harvey White Foundation, Chuck & Joannie Hensley, IBM, Lannan Foundation, Pepsi/Frito Lay, Wilke Family Foundation, Qwest, Jenzabar, Wieden+Kennedy, CBS Television Network,, Ilisagvik College, The Tierney Family Foundation, Merrill Lynch, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP, CollegeBoard, Smith, Jolly, Shelton, Ragona LLC, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., Northwest Indian College, UMB Bank, William & Antoinette Peskoff Charitable Foundation, Buena Vista Rancheria, Thalden Boyd Emery Architects, Wells Fargo Foundation, Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan LLP, Cecilia Smith & Alexis Wiles, George & Susan Then, Native Americans in Philanthropy, Native American Bank, Navajo Technical College, and Stories on Stage.

The American Indian College Fund would like to thank everyone who made the event a success to ensure that American Indians nationwide can earn a college degree and that tribal colleges can continue their mission to change lives.

The American Indian College Fund (the Fund) is the premier scholarship organization for American Indian students. The Fund was created in 1989 to raise funds for scholarships and support America’s 33 tribal colleges. The Fund provides more than 5,000 scholarships annually.

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