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Douglas County Community Foundation Inaugural Heroes Gala a Resounding Success

Honoring Local Heroes and Fundraising for Community Relief

Douglas County Community Foundation (DCCF) celebrates the success of its inaugural Heroes Gala honoring first responders, military personnel and veterans at the picturesque Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms. The sold-out event, which was attended by 650 people, including 140 uniformed members from local law enforcement and fire service agencies, raised more than $550,000 for Douglas County nonprofits and the DCCF Community Emergency Relief Fund.

“We exceeded expectations for our fundraising goals, in large part due to the heartwarming and compelling stories shared by our eight award honorees,” says Mike Waid, Executive Director of the DCCF. 

The eight award honorees include Keara Martin/Dispatch Award, Jeff Cislo/Law Enforcement Award, CJ Bailes and the South Metro Emergency Communications Team/Fire and Rescue Award, Jacob Mathis/Armed Forces Award, Alex Racey/Veteran Award, Michelle Kaye and Operation Equine/Community Hero Award, and Kendrick Castillo/Fallen Hero Award.

The three recipients featured here are recognized for their impact in our local Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree community.

CJ Bailes and the South Metro Fire and Rescue Emergency Response Team Fire and Rescue Award

As the Dispatch Supervisor of South Metro Fire Rescue, CJ Bailes was “the calm during the storm” when a class F-1 tornado touched down in Douglas County. Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree saw the brunt of the storm damage with the South Metro Fire dispatch team receiving over 250 calls that day for fire related calls, gas odors, accidents and home damage. Bailes and his team were recognized for their exceptional responsiveness and dedication to the community.

Kendrick Castillo

Fallen Hero Award, Accepted by Castillo’s Parents, John and Maria Castillo

In recognition of his bravery during the May 2019 tragic event at the Highlands Ranch STEM school, Kendrick Castillo was selected as the recipient of DCCF’s Fallen Hero Award. Castillo lost his life protecting his fellow students and teachers. His parents, John and Maria Castillo, were honored to accept the Fallen Hero Award in recognition of their son’ s sacrifice.

Michelle Kaye and Operation Equine

Community Hero Award

Michelle Kaye, MA, LPC is the Founder, Executive Director and Lead Therapist at Operation Equine. The mission of Operation Equine is to provide a safe haven for those who serve our communities, our country, and to all those who support and care for those individuals. Lee Dudley, Director of Equine Partnership Program says, “The clients of Operation Equine are men and women who have lived a life of service to our country and our communities. And Michelle lives a life of service to those men and women.”   

Event information, photos and videos featuring each of the award recipients can be viewed at