$15,000 goes to founder of Kids Aid

Mike Berry

Mike Berry, founder of the increasingly renowned Kids Aid Backpack Program in Grand Junction, was named “Volunteer of the Year” in the 2010 National Community Leadership Awards, given by the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation and Investment News, a weekly newspaper for financial professionals.

Berry was among 15 finalists invited to the upscale awards ceremony in New York City last week. He was there to be recognized for the program he founded to feed hungry children over the weekends during the school year and summer.

“It surprised me,” Berry said of his reaction to winning the top prize of $15,000 for the backpack program. “I had three minutes to speak, and I’d prepared nothing,” he added with a laugh.

Originally, the prize was to be $10,000, but it was increased after the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation received more donations than expected.

There were more than 650 guests in attendance at Sipreanna’s near Park Avenue and 42nd Street. Guest speakers for the event were Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the family portrayed recently in the hit movie “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock.

“They said that you don’t have to be perfect when doing something nice for somebody. You just have to do it,” Berry said.

Berry and his wife, Debbie, enjoyed their much-deserved trip to the Big Apple, taking in some of the tourist attractions as well as the “Jersey Boys” show on Broadway.

“The award money is going to be used to buy more food,” Berry said, emphasizing it will bridge a gap in charitable donations just before the holiday season.

Berry took a leap of faith and expanded the backpack program to include all 37 elementary schools in School District 51 this year. More than 1,700 children are enrolled in the program and receive food each Friday to tide them over for the weekend.

“I wasn’t sure how we could do it, but this money helps,” he said.

A partner at Colorado West Financial Advisors, Berry was nominated by his business partner, Linda Eden.


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