Photo of Michelle Sie Whitten
Excelsior Youth Center is thrilled to announce that Michelle Sie Whitten, co-founder and executive director of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, has been named as its Triumphant Woman for 2014. Whitten will be honored during the Triumphant FACES Gala on March 7, 2014, at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel (mark your calendars for this fabulous event). Maureen Regan Cannon, Bonnie Mandarich and Lois Paul have been named co-chairs of the event.
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation (Global) is dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care, education and advocacy. Global is critical to the establishment and the ongoing support of the first academic home for Down syndrome in the nation – the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the Anschutz Medical Campus. In just a few short years, the Crnic Institute is now the largest funder for Down syndrome research after the National Institutes of Health, and its clinical care arm, the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado, is now the largest pediatric care center for children for Down syndrome in the United States.
As part of its philanthropic endeavors, Global organizes the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show – the largest annual fundraiser for Down syndrome in the world. Whitten has created and oversees many programs at Global, including the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Dance Class with the Colorado Ballet, Dare to Play Football with former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders Dare to Cheer program, and the Dare to Play Soccer Camps with the Colorado Rapids and Regis University. Whitten has a personal connection to her interest and formation of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, as one of her two children was born with the condition.
Prior to her career in the nonprofit sector, Whitten was president and CEO of Encore International Inc., the China arm of Liberty Media Corp. She worked in the cable industry from 1993 until 2005 and is considered a pioneer in the China media industry. For her work during that time, she received the 40 Under 40 Achievement Award, the Real Woman: Outstanding Entrepreneur Award and the Women in Cable & Telecommunications Walk of Fame Award. In her more recent role in philanthropy, Whitten has received the National Football Foundation Community Outreach Award, seven prestigious ICON awards, the Rainbow of Hope Award from Keshet of the Rockies, the Developmental Pathways Frances Owens Family Involvement award, the Arc Thrift Community Leadership Award, the National Down Syndrome Congress’ Exceptional Meritorious Service Award, and the National Down Syndrome Congress’ President’s Award.
Whitten sits on the boards of ARC Thrift of Colorado, Challenge Day Denver, and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome.
Excelsior Youth Center created the Triumphant Women award in 2008 to recognize women who have made the difficult journey of overcoming challenges to achieve greatness. Joan Gabrielson, executive director of Excelsior Youth Center, says, “We are so excited to honor Michelle as our 2014 Triumphant Woman. She is a remarkable role model for our girls and shows that when faced with challenges, it is important how you deal with them despite your circumstances and how you can make a huge impact in our world.” Triumphant Women honorees may have encountered troubled backgrounds, dysfunctional families, experience with poverty or another extreme challenge. They are honored for beating the odds and becoming pillars of the community, displaying characteristics worthy of a role model to Excelsior girls.
Past honoree Jamie Angelich says about Excelsior, “Because of my childhood, I have always felt compelled to work with young girls, and Excelsior has given me that opportunity. Whether I take friends on a tour of the amazing facility, or if I just sit on a bench and chat with one of the girls, I am fulfilled.” She adds, “Knowing that Excelsior Youth Center has a 95% success rate makes my time with them even more rewarding.”