Asher on Aspen: The Charitable Aspenite |

Asher on Aspen: The Charitable Aspenite

A contestant points her finger at the host during Family Feud Aspen on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, at The Hotel Jerome. The annual event is a benefit and fundraiser for the Aspen Youth Center. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

I love the looks I get when I ask to valet my little Ford Focus at a fancy hotel in town.

I hand my keys to the doorman at the Hotel Jerome and walk in eagerly for the Aspen Youth Center’s annual benefit. My earrings feel as if they’re weighing me down and I haven’t quite established whether or not I am dressed up enough for this event, but I decide to just roll with it and hope for the best.

I scurry toward the sign-in table while scanning the luxurious-looking patrons. I look around desperately for a familiar face. “Whatever, I got this,” I think. I lock eyes with a server carrying a tray of themed cocktails and she hurries toward me. “Yes, please!” I say without hesitation. There is a silent auction taking place in the hallway leading up to the ballroom and it looks quite promising. I check my coat and start a leisurely stroll through the sea of opulence while browsing items up for bid.

There are countless charitable affairs in Aspen that raise money for unique causes, but there’s nothing quite like a “Family Feud”-themed game night where everyone is dressed to the nines on one of Aspen’s snowiest nights.

This was my first year attending the Aspen Youth Center’s annual game night benefit and it’s safe to say I had never experienced anything like it.

Envision the ABC game show “Family Feud” with Steve Harvey as the host. There are eight teams consisting of four players each. Rounds begin with two players competing in the toss-up question for control of the board. There are then three questions per round with the top five answers on the board and three strikes per question before the other team can steal. The game proved to be quite entertaining throughout the evening, but the objective for the night went much deeper than just a series of “Feud”-style survey questions.

In the past 28 years, the Aspen Youth Center has seen more than 28,000 youth walk through their doors. They have offered these kids a safe place to connect, learn, grow, be a kid and spend quality time with their peers. The programs, activities and mentorship create an environment that emphasizes wholeness, compassion and inclusiveness — helping young people to develop mature identities and form healthy relationships.

As we find our table and settle in for dinner, I spot a few nervous kids preparing to go on stage and speak about their experience with the youth center. The middle school-aged kids were absolutely darling. I stared at them in admiration for a moment. Can you imagine the courage it must take for a kid to go up and speak in front of a room full of influential adults?

In between rounds, the live auction items were bid on and showcased. Such unique prizes included two tickets to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, a day snowboarding with Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, a private viewing of the Tour de France with past winners Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie, and a ski day with hometown heroes Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace at Snowmass Ski Area.

Board President Oliver Sharpe took the stage and commanded everyone’s attention. In so many words, he explained how studies indicate that adolescents who do not participate in supervised, after-school programs are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as experimentation with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex. The Aspen Youth Center essentially benefits everyone in the community by providing a safe, fun and supervised place for kids to go during the times when they are most vulnerable to getting into trouble or making poor choices.

I always leave these events feeling inspired and motivated to be more involved in the local community. The event did a terrific job at holding partygoers’ attention spans while also raising awareness and simultaneously raising money for the incredible cause that directly benefits Aspen’s youth.

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