Spotlight COlorado  

Have You Met?

She’s got style, she’s got grace, and boy does she have personality! With the best attitude and a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor (that could make her a headliner at the Comedy Works), there doesn’t seem to be anything Ryta Sondergard can’t handle. Right now she is active and busy working with numerous charities, finishing up another Master’s program, and overseeing the construction of a new home.

 For Ryta, her energy, determination and zest for life have been her M.O. from the start. Ryta graduated from high school at age 16, went on to college - and after graduating, (in her words) “became serious about becoming a grown-up.” Before too long, she made a life changing decision to leave her hometown of Detroit and move to Denver.

While living in Arvada, Ryta met her - soon-to-be - husband, Steve Sondergard, at Calvary Temple in Boulder. Ryta says the two of them became good friends with Richie Furay, the church’s Pastor, who just happens to be the former lead guitarist with the folk-rock group, Buffalo Springfield. Now members of Cherry Hills Community Church and building the home of their dreams in Castle Pines, Ryta and Steve (who works in the oil industry) love to travel, and they have visited many diverse countries.

 With her contagious enthusiasm, Ryta is capable of pulling solutions out of her magic hat. She is happy to share her talents, and you couldn’t find a better role model. She is constantly raising the bar in the creativity department, and the non-profit organizations she is involved with rely on Ryta to help make their fundraisers a success.

Just days away from receiving an MBA degree from Regis College, Ryta delights in entertaining and feeding people. She’s a fabulous cook and one of the most innovative hostesses in town.

When I asked Ryta what she is most optimistic about, she humorously said: “The future for our young people. Since they are going to be paying for my social security, I’m happy to be cheering them on!”

What fundraising efforts are you involved in at this time? At present I have a private fundraising campaign going on since we are about to break ground on our home in Castle Pines! Other than that, I’m involved in the planning for events for Kempe’s “Salt on the Rim” (June), Beacon Center’s “Viva Vegas Gala” (May), Dumb Friends League “Furry Scurry” (May) and Colorado UpLift’s “Stickhorse Derby” (February).

What is one of your favorite charitable events to attend? “The No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” event for Colorado UpLift. It’s the one time I don’t have to worry about what to wear.

What do you consider your proudest achievement? I don’t know if it’s my proudest moment, but graduating from high school at age 16 and starting college four months later was pretty terrific for me. I do regret however, not having a senior year in high school….I think I may have missed out on a lot of fun.

How do we get more people involved in doing community volunteering and charitable giving? By connecting potential volunteers and givers with organizations and activities that are of interest to them.

In your work-life, what was your favorite job, and why? My favorite job was working in personnel at the Federal Reserve Bank. I was educated and trained as a numbers cruncher, but my joy was realized when I could interface with other human beings. Much of my job involved training and employee relations, and on occasion, I conducted tours of the facility. I always enjoyed ‘hosting’ eager groups of young people as well as the typical tourists who were anxious to see where “all that money was stored” and sometimes burned.

Who is your hero or mentor? Besides my dear mother, Eleanor Johnson was quite an inspiration for me. Eleanor was a suburban housewife in Farmington, Michigan who introduced a handful of inner-city 8th grade kids to art, gardening, travel, fiscal responsibility and high educational goals. She was a brilliant and humble woman who transported the eight of us to her suburban home to teach us how to create ceramics and other crafts… but, she taught us so much more. She was a crusader for civil rights and friends with Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks. I spoke at her funeral six years ago and was amazed at how many young people she touched – a handful at a time.

What do you consider your greatest strength? My faith is by far my greatest strength, but what will be obvious to others are my organizational skills.

In your travels, what has been your favorite place to visit so far? I’ve been to twenty seven countries, and all but three U.S. states, and my favorite place to visit so far is New Zealand…it is so diverse in such a small space. On our visit, we were sailing in the north, and as we traveled south, we were able to glacier ski. It is truly a microcosm.

You and Steve are building a new home in Castle Pines; when you go to sell your present home, what will it tell people - who walk through it - about you? Probably that I really needed an interior designer! Beyond that it would probably speak of my whimsical and fun loving nature.

What are your hobbies or favorite leisure-time activities? When I have the time I love reading mystery novels. When I really have time I love writing…maybe one day I’ll get some of my work published.

With all the projects you are involved with, what are you most passionate about? …getting all the projects done!

What do you think is the greatest problem our country is facing today? The lack of leadership in government, in churches, in our homes. We seem to be in a very laissez-faire society except as it pertains to policing the rest of the world.

Who would you like to trade places with for one day, and why? Melinda Gates…I’d like to spend one day not being concerned with the amount of my VISA card statement. On a serious note, I’d like to be Leontyne Price performing as Aida at the Metropolitan Opera.

You have such a wonderful relationship with your husband, Steve, what do you think is the secret to a happy marriage? Lots of humor, lots of forgiveness, moments of healthy silence - and Tums. It doesn’t hurt to be in love and deeply committed to riding the waves together.

Aside from Colorado, where would you choose to live? I cannot imagine living anywhere else. We were away from Colorado for four years and all the while fine-tuning ways to get back!

What’s coming up in the future for Ryta Sondergard? I’m looking forward to receiving my MBA degree and very possibly graduating as Alpha Sigma Nu - an honor recognizing my efforts as an academician and humanitarian.

What would you like future generations to remember you for? My faith at work.

Ryta’s Community Involvement – and “Faith at Work”:

• Colorado Ballet Board of Trustees • Dumb Friends League Board of Directors • President-Elect Kempe Foundation Alliance • Board Member Colorado UpLift Guild • Board Member Cherish the Children Guild (Beacon Center) • Member, The Wednesday’s Child Connection Guild (the Adoption Exchange)