Fundraiser to benefit 2 local women leading a trip to Uganda |

Fundraiser to benefit 2 local women leading a trip to Uganda

Jack Weinstein

Jessica Schlapkohl, back, and Tiffany Russell will be leading a group of six women from Steamboat Springs on a humanitarian mission to Uganda that leaves May 5. Ciao Gelato will donate a portion of its sales Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to the trip.

— When Steamboat Springs residents Tiffany Russell, Jessica Schlapkohl and Sara Bradt started going to Ciao Gelato after it opened on Yampa Street last November, they caught the attention of restaurant owner Lynne Romeo.

Russell, Sch­lapkohl and Bradt are invol­­ved with non­­profit organizations that have done work in Africa, including Come, Let's Dance in Steam­boat Springs. Romeo said she was touched by their stories and offered to help if they ever needed it.

About a month ago, Russell and Schlapkohl took Romeo up on her offer.

They're hosting a fundraiser called Scoops for Africa from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Ciao Gelato. Russell said the money raised will help pay for her and Schlapkohl's housing in Africa and Come, Let's Dance programs.

Russell, a Colorado Moun­tain College Alpine Campus student, and Schlap­kohl, a local hairstylist, are going to Uganda on May 5. They are leading a monthlong trip with a group of young women, including three Alpine campus students, two Steamboat Springs residents and a University of Colorado at Boulder student. The group will assist Come, Let's Dance programs, including working on sustainable projects and helping to prepare land for a school to open later this year.

The group will stay until June 2, but Russell said she and Schlapkohl plan to stay for the entire summer and possibly longer.

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Come, Let's Dance is a Steamboat nonprofit group started by resident Shane Gilbert to empower African youths to initiate positive social and economic change in their own lives and communities, according to its Web site.

Russell, who spent 11 months teaching fourth grade in Zambia after graduating from high school in 2006, met Gilbert shortly after to moving to Steamboat a year ago. Russell said she fell in love with the vision of Come, Let's Dance, and not just what it does in Africa, but what it does for Steamboat. Schlapkohl also has previously worked in Africa.

Russell said the women who are going on the trip approached her and Schlapkohl about their interest in going to Africa, so Russell and Schlapkohl said they decided to lead the trip.

"It's just super awesome that young girls that were my age when I first went to Africa want to go," Russell said. "It was such an incredible life change for me. I'm just ecstatic to share that with them and be a part of a community that supports that."

Romeo said she would donate 30 percent of the day's sales of gelato, paninis, pizza and espresso to Russell and Schlapkohl.

After she and her family opened Ciao Gelato, Romeo said they had three objectives for the business: earn a living, showcase the talents of local youths, and get involved in fundraisers both local and international.

Having been familiar with some efforts to assist people in Africa, Romeo said she was happy to help. When Romeo was teaching at a high school in Rovereto, Italy, she helped organize a fundraiser for a colleague who was taking a mission trip to Tanzania.

Romeo said she was excited to hear that Russell and Schlapkohl were involved with a Steamboat organization and that she could have a direct connection to the project. She said since she couldn't be there to help physically, she could help financially.

"I was lucky to meet a great group of girls who are passionate about what they do," Romeo said. "They are passionate and compassionate at the same time."

From 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Steamboat's Henry Howard will provide live music during the fundraiser. A number of local businesses, including Catamount Ranch & Club, Helm Eye Center, Bella Salon, Ace at the Curve and Wing-Time, have donated items that will be raffled or available during a silent auction.

Russell said they haven't worked out the final details about how much raffle tickets will cost or if some of the items would be sold during a silent auction.

As much of the fundraiser was created to benefit their trip to Uganda, Russell said it's also an opportunity for Steamboat to learn about Ciao Gelato and Romeo.

"For someone who does so much for the community and works her tail off, we've got to find a way to give back to her," Russell said about Romeo.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail

If you go

What: Scoops for Africa fundraiser

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, live music and raffle from 4 to 6 p.m.

Where: Ciao Gelato, 700 Yampa St.

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