The Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center was a flurry of sparkles and smiles on Sunday as the Colorado Avalanche and the Avs Better Halves hosted the 22nd annual Charity Brunch.
The event was an opportunity for children that struggle with or have overcome significant medical challenges to meet the Avs, their wives and girlfriends and have a day filled with fun and games. Members of the community were able to purchase tickets for the player-served brunch and get prime viewing of a very special fashion show.
All proceeds from the Brunch benefitted the community programs of Kroenke Sports Charities.
The morning kicked off with the children being introduced to their Avalanche buddies for the day. The room was filled with chatter and laughter as members of the Avs engaged with the kids over board games, cards, a life-size game of Operation, jumbo Jenga, puzzles and much more. Autographs were also exchanged as the players introduced their new friends to their teammates and mascot Bernie, a favorite among the youngsters.
As the children and players became acquainted, the Avs Better Halves went to a pre-brunch reception to sell mystery-signed pucks and promote the gift baskets that each helped put together containing the players' "favorite things." Highlights included a coffee-themed crate from Vladislav Kamenev, a basket of camping gear from Semyon Varlamov and a video-gamer's delight from Matt Nieto, which included a PS4, NHL 19 and a variety of the forward's favorite snacks.
Members of the Avs then took a brief pause from the meet and greet with the kids to take to the stage and introduce themselves to the 500-plus people who had bought tickets for the event. In pairs, the Colorado players walked the length of the runway, smiling and waving, before heading to the buffet tables to serve the food. The team traded in their jerseys for aprons and manned chafing dishes full of bacon, eggs, potatoes and more. While they were there primarily to serve the guests, some players could be found snacking on bacon in between helpings.
After receiving their meals, guests at the brunch were greeted by Altitude TV's Kyle Keefe and Lauren Gardner, who emceed the event. The two discussed the importance of the event and welcomed back brunch alumni Ellie and Porter, children who had participated in the annual event years ago and are celebrating improvements in their health. Videos showcasing the two alums, as well as highlighting the Avs' community involvement, the families and participants set the scene for the ensuing fashion show.
Video: Meet the kids of the 2019 Avalanche Charity Brunch
Video: Meet the families of the 2019 Avs Charity Brunch
The children and their Avalanche partners emerged from behind the curtain dressed to the nines. They strutted their stuff down the length of the fashion runway, pausing at the end to strike a pose or do a choreographed move.
Sparkles and twirls were popular among this years' models, but each had an entirely unique walk. The pairs showed off their karate moves, blew kisses, did the splits (or attempted to in the case of Mikko Rantanen), handed out roses and jumped, danced and skipped their way down the stage. Zadorov's partner, Hayden, had so much fun performing in front of the adoring crowd that he came out for multiple surprise encores, peeking from behind the curtain and dancing his heart out until his 6-foot-5 buddy picked him up to bring him backstage.
Video: The Avs walk the fashion runway with the kid models
Prior to all the participants coming back out together for a final walk, team captain Gabriel Landeskog gave some closing remarks. He called the Brunch "the highlight of the year" and also shared a personal story of his own. Several years ago, his nephew was born prematurely, and Landeskog discussed the challenge that he and his family faced after his birth. It gave him a fresh perspective and even more respect for the children and families participating in the day's festivities.
"It's awesome to be able to do this, especially with these kids who have tough days. They can come here and put a smile on for a few hours," said forward Matt Calvert about the event.
Calvert spent the day with 5-year-old Everette, an energetic young man who has had to navigate a myriad of health challenges since birth.
"He has three different things going on and he gets to come here today, and he gets to forget about it," Calvert said. "He gets to play with Bernie, play with us, get autographs. We played Legos together and then we got to do the fashion show at the end. It was a fun day all in all."
The Charity Brunch concluded with full stomachs and even fuller hearts. It was a day where the kids were able to be goofy and to showcase their awesome personalities in an environment separate from hospitals and doctors. It was a space to celebrate their childhood and to embrace their individuality. It was a special day for the Avalanche and the community, and it will certainly not be forgotten by anyone in attendance.