Celebrating — and supporting — movement

Bridging Bionics Foundation’s RISE UP GALA raised at least half of its annual operating budget Sunday

Kimberly Nicoletti
Clockwise, from left: professional dancer Jasmine Takács, Zander Higbie (fundraising and communications director of Bridging Bionics Foundation), Paralympian Aron Anderson and Bridging Bionics executive director Amanda Boxtel. Charles Engelbert Photography.
Charles Engelbert Photography

Bridging Bionics Foundation’s RISE UP GALA Sunday night at the Hotel Jerome was heartwarming, energizing and completely memorable.

I attended the gala solo, not knowing anyone in the room, because my companion couldn’t make it. Normally, this would be daunting, but as soon as I walked into the lounge, a table of attendees from Oregon befriended me; Anna, Marci and Bill Gaynor play in Aspen Meadow Band, which performs at fundraisers for organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Special Olympics and Relay for Life. I chalk up the overall open heartedness at the gala to why we all came: Because we strongly believe in, and have a soft spot, for BBF’s mission to provide affordable and ongoing physical therapy and advanced technology to individuals with neurological mobility challenges, no matter their ability to pay or not. I risked becoming a wallflower (but was pleasantly met with lively conversation and inclusive groovin’ on the dancefloor) because I cherish movement; as someone who has a master’s degree in dance therapy and somatic psychology, I’ve both witnessed and experienced its healing power.

Sunday’s gala was BBF’s way of visibly demonstrating its impact to the larger community, as well as raising more than half of its annual operating budget.

“It was our most successful event since the inception of our organization six and a half years ago. For that, we are immensely grateful,” said BBF executive director Amanda Boxtel. “With these funds, we will continue giving the gift of mobility to serve our community with our life-changing programming.”

Final numbers aren’t in yet, but three donors committed to paying $50,000 each, another donated $25,000, and several patrons gave amounts ranging from $100 to $10,000. In addition, the live auction earned $70,000 for two separate private dinners with Jimmy Yeager and Tiziano Gortan, and other auction items went for generous amounts.

At Sunday’s RISE UP GALA, 192 guests enjoyed dinner, a live auction and dancing. Charles Engelbert Photography.
Charles Engelbert Photography

“While our physical therapy interventions and growing inventory of advanced technologies are helping our athletes regain mobility and wellness, one challenge remains the same: keeping our program accessible and affordable for all,” Boxtel said. “With increased client demand for our program — we have a waitlist — now more than ever, we needed to rally our supporters and publicly share our mission to continue serving our community with our quality programming. I am truly humbled by the genuine outpouring of love and generosity from the attendees at our 2022 RISE UP GALA.”

Despite a few cancellations from key supporters, including its presenting sponsor who tested positive for COVID the day prior to the gala, BBF’s first signature, in-person event since 2019 was successful on all fronts. Patrons and sponsors — 192 total — enjoyed a cocktail hour sponsored by Dona Vega Mezcal and Woody Creek Distillers; a scrumptious dinner including potato gnocchi, honey and sage brined Guinea hen and dessert; two performances by “Let’s Dance” professional dancer Jasmine Takács and Paralympian Aron Anderson; and incredibly danceable music by Tunisia.

Jasmine Takács and Aron Anderson performed stunning choreography at the gala. Charles Engelbert Photography
Charles Engelbert Photography

As emcee John Sarpa said, “It’s real magic tonight.”

Indeed, it was an evening of celebrating and supporting the body in motion.

“With my new mobility limitations since undergoing four spinal surgeries in 10 weeks, I sat and wept in awe watching Jasmine and Aron move effortlessly,” Boxtel said. “I witnessed the power of their bodies spin gracefully in space, uninhibited and in such unison, as if they were entwined in harmony from the same mould. My heart was full. I became ‘them,’ and, for a moment, I forgot about my own physical limitations. The spirit has no limitations, and that’s what I hold true.”

Aron Anderson and Jasmine Takács perform during dinner at the RISE UP GALA on Sunday. Charles Engelbert Photography.
Charles Engelbert Photography
Bridging Bionics’ clients with their respective helpers, from left to right: Turner Fautsko (child) with mother Jenni Fautsko (Turner is wearing a Trexo robotic walking device); Tyler Williams with physical therapist Debbie Weidemann (Tyler is wearing a Keeogo dermoskeleton); Mackenzie Langley with physical therapist Tami Cassetty (Mackenzie is wearing the Indego exoskeleton); John Spencer with physical therapist Birgit Shinneman (John is wearing the NewGait wearable orthotic device); Yami Torres with physical therapist Kenzi Pizzino (Yami is wearing the Upsee children’s harness); John Goettge with physical therapist Maria Grufstedt and trainer/PT aide Remy Ogden (John is wearing the Ekso GT exoskeleton). Charles Engelbert Photography.
Charles Engelbert Photography
Bridging Bionics by the numbers

Six and half years ago, Amanda Boxtel launched Bridging Bionics Foundation. Since then, it has:

  • Gifted more than 12,000 physical therapy sessions to clients, ages 3-90, with neurological conditions.
  • Served an average of up to 50 clients per week, each with 2-3 weekly mobility sessions.
  • Increased its clinical staff operating out of two facilities in Snowmass Village and Glenwood Springs, five days a week, year-round.
  • Increased its advanced technologies and equipment inventory.
  • Documented that 80% of clients reported improved physical health, and 90% of clients reported improved emotional health.

Kimberly Nicoletti is a freelance writer, editor and the editor of ATW. She can be reached at or

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