Have You Met?

Debbie Kay Gradishar was born into a fourth generation Colorado family. Part of a close-knit clan, Debbie has two brothers and two sisters and says that her poor mother had all five children in seven years. Her dad was a General Contractor and owned a construction and demolition company, and Debbie proudly states: “My dad gave me my entrepreneurial spirit. I watched and learned from him my entire life – he was brilliant!”

After college, Debbie was recruited by Chevron to work for them in San Francisco. She became homesick and eventually moved back to Colorado and continued to work in the accounting profession.

Back where she belonged, Debbie became involved with several charitable meetings and events and decided: “This is the field I want to work in!” With her creativity and a head for numbers and figures, it was a perfect blend for Debbie who already had developed a passion for giving back to - and being involved in - her community. Debbie says: My mom and dad instilled in me how important it was to give back to the community. From having children from the orphanage spend the weekends with us to creating major fund raisers, they were always giving back in one way or another. I couldn't have picked better parents or role models.”

Debbie's genuine personality – and undaunted energy - can breathe noticeable life into any meeting or event she is involved with. She's been an admirable role model in her own right and an outstanding volunteer for many non-profit organizations. Debbie possesses that all important human element of compassion, and she has a unique ability to interact directly and honestly with people.

No matter what challenges Debbie has been given, she courageously moves ahead. Even after losing her dear father recently and also dealing with other family illnesses, she is tireless and committed to everything she does. I can’t help but compare Debbie Gradishar to the “Unsinkable Molly Brown." Just like Molly, Debbie is invincible and unbeatable and a lady who carries on and does whatever needs to be done, because – that’s just what strong women do.

Debbie, I know you are, and have been, involved with many non-profit organizations and have helped plan many different charitable events. Is there one event that especially stands out as a memorable one, and why? That would have to be my first volunteer event over twelve years ago. Kristina Davidson was chairing “Keeping Women Young at Heart” for the American Heart Association. She needed a Logistics Chair and I volunteered. Some of my responsibilities were designing the floor plan for the exhibitors, getting exhibitors and speakers, and making sure everyone was happy. I loved it! That is why I decided to quit the accounting profession and start my meeting and event planning company.

What can you absolutely not live without? My family and friends.

If you could go back in time, and do something differently, what would it be? Growing up, I always followed the rules and did what I was told. I think if I had to do it over again, I would take more risks and not be afraid of what other people thought.

What is your favorite childhood memory? Sitting on my Dad's lap on Sunday evenings and watching Bonanza. After I fell a sleep he would carry me to bed and tuck me in.

I understand your father passed away recently; he was such a big influence in your life. What did he leave you with that you will never forget? He taught me you do what ever it takes to get a job done and you do what you say you are going to do. I also learned from him that honesty and integrity are the two most important things you can offer your family, friends, - and clients.

What is something people don't know about you? When I was young I had an imaginary friend; A cowboy and that was also his name, Cowboy. For being creative enough to have an imaginary friend, you would think I could come up with a more creative name. Any way, Cowboy and I were inseparable. Our favorite activity was building tents and having cookouts (imaginary, of course. No fire involved.) The biggest problem came at the holidays. We spent holidays with my grandparents, who lived in a small farm house north of Denver. There were 5 kids in my family, and I had 8 cousins. Needless to say, it was very crowded Even so, I insisted there be a place at the table for Cowboy. I don't know why my grandmother and mother obliged me, but Cowboy always had his place next to me. One day my mom was driving, and I rolled down the window. She asked me what I was doing ,and I said I was mad at Cowboy and threw him out the window. I never saw Cowboy again.

What is one of your main philosophies of life? To this day, I know any one of my siblings, their spouses or their children will be there for me, and I for them - no matter what. I extend this philosophy to my friends. I will be there for them no matter what, and they have proven over and over that they are there for me. I am so blessed that I have this in my life. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it.

What is your greatest strength - a unique ability you are known for? I do what I say I am going to do.

What is your weakness - something out there that is hard to resist? The inability to say "no" when someone asks for help.

Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? I can't say there is just one. Everyone has a unique gift or story that is interesting to me.

What is your idea of a perfect get–a-way? Visiting a country where I can experience something different, the culture and the history.

Do you have any upcoming trips planned? Yes, I am planning a trip to India.

What social or charitable event are you working on these days? The First American State Bank Fitness Festival.

What are your goals for the next several years as far as growing your business, Gradishar Group Meeting Creations? Currently, I plan meetings and events all over the United States and Mexico. I love what I do and plan to keep doing it. It's important to me to work for clients in helping them to achieve their goals.

What is a favorite quote or saying that has helped guide you through life? My mom's favorite saying growing up, "Things happen for a reason." Sometimes I really hate that saying, but it's true.

What new trends do you see in the future for meetings and events? The trend in meetings is green. I know this is the "it" word these days, but when you analyze it, it makes sense. Not only are you doing what is best from an ecological standpoint, but you will find it makes economic sense as well. You are seeing more and more hotels and business who are finding financial reasons to be green.

Many of us “Baby Boomers” are involved with non-profits these days; how do we get the younger set interested in joining us, so that we will have someone to pass the torch on to? We can't expect the younger set to want to do the same things we did. They are different. They grew up differently and their lives have been influenced by different circumstances. They want to make a difference, but they want to do it in a way that they are comfortable with and that makes sense to them. We need to ask them how they would like to help and then assist them in figuring out how to do it.

What will we find you doing usually on a Saturday afternoon? Doing something with friends such as a movie, hiking or just hanging out.

How do you want to be remembered? As someone with integrity.

Community Involvement: Current President of the Guild of the Children's Diabetes Foundation; Past President of the Denver Center Alliance; Past President of the American Heart Association Guild; Past President of The Helping Hands of F.A.C.E.S. Also, some of the other groups Ms. Gradishar has been involved with are: Girls, Inc.; Arapahoe House; Kempe; Volunteers of America; Colorado Ballet; and Junior League of Denver.