Fremont’s Exceptional Women announces 15 honorees for Oct. 14 event – Canon City Daily Record

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Fremont’s Exceptional Women will recognize the 15 honorees of 2022 during an annual banquet at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Pathfinder Park Event Center.
Kristy Rowland, the executive director of Uncaged Today, will be the guest speaker.
Cara Fisher Award for Community Service
Carla Braddy knows there are countless ways to serve her fellow man – and she is deeply involved in so very many of them. From the downtown business district to local recreation, to adopting rescued animals, to becoming an organ donor, there is little Braddy hasn’t done to create magic in her own community. She even manages to serve untraditional communities in untraditional ways.
Braddy naturally serves with time, energy, and finances – the traditional ways philanthropists give – but her reach extends far beyond the ordinary. As the owner of two local businesses – Coming Home Realty and The Hive – Braddy is a model exceptional woman who supports the work of others, while also ensuring that her own work is done with the utmost quality and integrity. She has an unequaled capacity for empathy coupled with a stalwart work ethic.
Barbara Carochi, a rare native of Fremont County, has spent decades serving her friends, neighbors and multiple organizations. In fact, she is always doing something for someone else. She started as an LPN, enjoying her nursing career, and raising three sons with her husband, Frank. She became Activities Director at St. Joseph Manor in Florence, where she was encouraged to attend school to obtain her Nursing Home Administrator License. She spent many years in that capacity at Progressive Care Center in Cañon City before working in Pueblo at Centura Care, where she became administrator of all three Centura facilities in that town.
For years, Carochi involved friends and grandchildren in planned activities such as artwork, music and cooking for her beloved elderly residents. Even after retirement, she continues these activities, giving as much of her own free time as humanly possible. Friends and neighbors know Carochi is the first to show up on their doorstep with delicious, homemade food when someone is ill or has suffered a loss. She has a lifelong heart for the service of her fellow man.
Shirley Troutman – whether folks have known her for five minutes or 50 years, leaves an enduring impression on all those she meets. Known far and wide for her service to others, Troutman embraces dedication, work, sacrifice, love, selflessness, willingness to succeed and passion for everything she does. Now retired following a successful 35-year career with the Colorado Department of Corrections, Troutman was the connection between her place of work and her community.
Almost 30 years ago she lobbied the community to raise funds to purchase land south of Florence to entice the Federal Prison Complex to move in. She also worked hard on the transfer of the old prison gardens for the Pueblo Community College Campus in Cañon City. Throughout her career, Troutman was the go-to person at DOC for countless events and fundraisers. And her career-related activities don’t hold a candle to Troutman’s other work in the community, most noticeably through Cañon City High School, E-Free Church, PEO Board, and Parents/Supporters of Military in Fremont County.
Ruth Carter Award for Excellence in Character
Charlene Lindner, a retired, longtime educator in the Fremont County community, has left her indelible mark on entire generations of local young people. She has woven a tapestry of charity, kindness and caring through those fortunate enough to have been under her care and influence.
Moving to Cañon City years ago, Lindner dedicated her life to helping children and spent 39 years as a middle school physical education teacher. Even today, she still has folks come up to her and introduce themselves as previous students before they tell her of the incredible impact she had on their lives. But she didn’t stop there. Once retired from teaching, she began using her many different forms of talent in other ways of helping kids. She has inventively figured out ways to use her many passions in the pursuit of excellence in others.
Megan McCarter is an exceptional role model for girls and young women in the community. She serves as the director of the Cañon City Music and Blossom Festival Pageant, an unpaid position for which she volunteers, and has for the past 20 years. She believes that the pageant is much more than a rhinestone tiara, sash and title. Rather, the pageant allows young women to practice hands-on interview skills necessary for their future, an opportunity to work on public speaking abilities, and teaching them to be comfortable in their own skin by boosting self-confidence – all while making memories of a lifetime.
Winning the title of Blossom Queen in 1999, McCarter didn’t stop there. She went on to compete in Miss Colorado USA and Mrs. Colorado pageants, as well – and was ultimately crowned Mrs. Colorado in 2009. That achievement allowed her to represent Colorado in the nationally-televised Mrs. America Pageant, where she placed in the top 10.
Rena Pryor’s leadership skills and dedication are the reason why the Florence Merchants and the Florence Chamber are alive and thriving. Despite suffering a couple of difficult years through the COVID crisis, both organizations have been led back into the light by her exuberant work behind the scenes. Pryor was instrumental in working with the Chamber to provide personal protective equipment to Florence merchants so they could continue to operate their businesses throughout the pandemic and reopen businesses as quickly as possible.
Retired from the Colorado Department of Corrections, Pryor still is as busy as she is big-hearted. Not only is she a guiding force behind the Florence Merchants, but she also volunteers at the Bell Tower and is a beekeeper, an artist, and an outstanding quilter. Since 2016, Pryor has managed Loralie’s Antique Mall in Florence. With her building engineering background, her talents are as numerous as they are varied – it’s rumored she can build or fix anything.
Minnie Harding Award for Overcoming Adversity
Julia Bartkowiak has not been stopped by seemingly impossible obstacles. She is a shining star in the community. Adopted as a young toddler from an orphanage in Poland along with her two brothers, Bartkowiak was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and was considerately developmentally delayed. With her new adoptive family here in the United States, she struggled with school but always had an incredible gift with animals.
With help from her parents, Bartkowiak fulfilled her dream when she started a pet sitting and dog walking business after high school, caring for others’ pets. Through blood, sweat, and tears, her family helped her open Furry Paws Doggy Daycare in August 2020. This required the complete remodel of an old transmission facility into a welcoming space for dogs and cats. Her business is booming. Shortly after opening Furry Paws, Bartkowiak’s father passed away unexpectedly, but she also has overcome this heartbreak to remain committed to her business and make him proud.
Joen Elliott moved to Florence to find some peace and quiet in her life, but ended up jumping feet first into her new community and now finds her days filled with more than she ever imagined. Growing up in a family of “treasure hunters,” Elliott has enjoyed collecting interesting items from flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales and auctions for most of her life. The thrill of the hunt spurs her on, and she loves the stories behind her found treasures. She opened her own shop, Treasures, in Florence in 2019 to bring joy to others who stumble upon her collections.
Unfortunately, a little over a year ago, the unimaginable happened – her shop, located in one of the most historic buildings in downtown Florence, was one of several completely destroyed in a devastating fire that took nearly 12 hours to extinguish. But she didn’t walk away. Instead, she chose to rebuild and now puts smiles on her customers’ faces in her new shop, Treasures Too.
Courtney McAvoy once was a struggling single mom, but has bloomed right where she was planted and now is an integral part of the Cañon City Police Department. A Cañon City native, McAvoy was named Little Miss Blossom for the Blossom Festival in 1987. Thirteen years later, she graduated from Florence High School, and later that year, at the age of 18, she gave birth to her daughter, Brystol.
Doing everything she could for her daughter and to make a better life for her small family, McAvoy worked several part-time jobs, including waiting tables at various local restaurants. While struggling with her finances as a single mom, she decided to seek assistance from the Colorado Works Program. There, she received an internship with the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office that changed the course of her life.
Norma Hatfield Award for Professional Achievement
Nancy Bartkowiak, a longtime associate of St. Thomas More Hospital and Centura Health, exudes positivity, teamwork and community. She has a heart for her community and her peers, but especially for her hospital. She has held various roles throughout the hospital that have always been grounded in emergency medicine, and she has performed those different functions admirably.
Bartkowiak currently serves as Trauma Program Manager, and in the chaotic world of rural trauma medical care, she excels at bringing leadership and organization. She also has been a leader of the St. Thomas More Hospital community events for many years, performing with precision, excellence, and appreciation for the importance of being visible and giving back. She heads up the 9Health Fair annually, helps with Safety Jam and Boo at the Bridge, and plans participation for many more community events. She not only goes all in but also encourages other individuals and businesses to fully participate, as well. Collaboration and teamwork are the heart of everything she does.
Dr. Liz Knies may seem to have the world’s most terrible timing, but when the full story is told, she simply shines with professional talents and personal sacrifice. An emergency room physician, Knies and her husband, Chandler, opened a new business, Rose Injectables, in January of 2020 – just two short months before the global pandemic hit, closing their doors.
Knies immediately shifted gears and worked tirelessly, treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the initial onslaught of the pandemic. Because of the nature of the many unknowns of the virus, and lack of vaccinations and tested treatments, she moved out of their family home for six weeks to protect the health of their young family. It was a great sacrifice, made to fulfill her calling and duty as an emergency doctor, during a time when doctors and nurses were our heroes.
Ida Seiferd‘s thinking outside the box guided her to open her own therapeutic service, offering unique therapies to a variety of people in Southern Colorado. Through her business, Rosamond Therapeutic Services, she offers traditional individual and family therapy but also makes a difference for others through equine therapy, yoga, specially-designed clinics and retreats. In her specialized animal-assisted therapy, the human-animal bond is the vehicle for change and healing. Her passion is helping others create a life worth living and empowering them to heal from trauma. She helps people of all ages work through a variety of emotional, behavioral and relational challenges.
Seiferd practices the “pay it forward” approach to inspiring generosity and compassion, which positively alters the neural networks in humans. This allows those without insurance to access the powerful benefits of equine-assisted psychotherapy, by removing financial barriers to treatment.
Janet Gunkel Award for Rising Star
Olivia Grooters was adopted at an early age from a remote Chinese village. She strives to leave an indelible, positive footprint on her school, family, community and church environments. She is blessed with a passion for helping people and a love for the health science professions. These qualities have been exemplified throughout her life through volunteer activities, tutoring, mentoring, leadership and church-related activities.
A 2022 graduate of Cañon City High School, Grooters concurrently received an Associate of General Studies degree from Pueblo Community College in May. She was a member of the National Honor Society and was highly involved in extra-curricular activities and community service projects. She completed an internship with the Fremont County Department of Public Health and Environment and another internship with the Cañon City Fire Department. Church-related activities include Vacation Bible School, Parents’ Night Out, Young Life Leader, and middle school youth leader. Grooters also completed a week-long mission trip, clearing land to build a Christ-centered children’s camp.
Kiley O’Rourke was a child driven to be successful in school and in sports. That may not be an unusual story, but, given what she has been through in her young life, she isn’t typical in any form or fashion. Despite her humble and quiet disposition, O’Rourke showed herself to be the true leader she is from a very young age. Whether in school or in sports, she always has been known as one of the most compassionate people around. She always cared much more about her friends and her teammates, than she ever did about her personal accolades.
Now just 22 and no longer playing sports herself, O’Rourke has turned her attention to her lifelong dream of teaching and coaching. She graduated in three short years from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, and returned home to become a third-grade teacher here in Fremont County at McKinley Elementary School. She began her new assignments this fall.
Alyson Payne may be young, but she already has broken through the glass ceiling in one very memorable way. A 2022 graduate of Cañon City High School, she was the first female wrestler to ever receive a varsity letter from CCHS. Also, during her high school career, Payne was heavily involved with the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, where she led with excellence. In school, she was deeply appreciated by her teachers and other staff for her determination, communication skills, leadership, work ethic and positive risk-taking.
Payne also has spent many hours over the past four years volunteering for St. Thomas More Hospital as well as the annual Colorado Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic, where residents are provided with oral health care services at no cost. During her senior year at CCHS, she completed the Emergency Medical Technician course through Pueblo Community College, but she wasn’t done there – she also completed her training and joined the Cañon City Volunteer Fire Department.
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