Steamboat Springs This year, the Christian Heritage School's fundraising banquet will be about more than raising money.
Nearly two weeks after the tragic death of longtime teacher Brian Houston, Friday night's event will give the Christian Heritage community a chance to smile -- something Houston said he wanted, in a statement that sadly was prophetic.
Keri Couchoud, the school's director of development, said that a week before Houston's March 25 death in a motorcycle accident near Grand Junction, the two were talking about the March 19 car crash on Colorado Highway 9 that killed Steamboat resident Jennifer Buttery.
"He said: 'Keri, when I go, I want a white box, and I want everybody to sign it, and then I want you to have a really big party,'" Couchoud said.
Couchoud said the first part of Houston's wish came true at his funeral Friday.
"Everybody signed his casket," she said. "It was completely covered."
The second part of Houston's wish may come true Friday night at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.
"Brian was an amazingly hilarious, upbeat guy," Couchoud said. "He would want us to have a good time, and that's what we're going to do."
The evening will begin with silent and live auctions for more than 250 items, Couchoud said, including catered dinners, jewelry, a purebred yellow Labrador puppy and a Mother's Day gift basket.
Proceeds from the annual auction support tuition for Christian Heritage students and salary for school staff.
"It really does fill in the gaps," Couchoud said. "In order to supplement those costs, we have to have a successful auction."
The banquet's theme is "Christian Heritage School: Past, Present and Future," and it will be portrayed with updates on former students, a performance by members of the school's music program and a presentation about the school's plans for coming years.
A drawing will be held for a 32-inch flat-screen TV, Couchoud said.
Christian Heritage Principal Tim Calkins said daily life is "getting a little more back into routine" at the school, where Houston taught Bible, history and math classes for 14 years. Calkins said Houston's wife, Christel, hopes to return to the school today. Christel teaches music at Christian Heritage. Brian and Christel's four children are students at the school. Calkins said they returned to classes Monday.
Support from the community has been "amazing," Couchoud said. Staff at Steamboat Springs High School sent Christian Heritage staff a catered lunch from Pisa's Pizza and Pasta on Monday, and Steamboat Springs Middle School staff sent flowers.
"It was really sweet," Couchoud said.
On Friday night, the close-knit Christian Heritage community will gather in an upbeat setting to support the school and to remember a father, teacher and friend who Couchoud said will not be far away.
"It's going to be a fun evening, and Brian Houston is going to be there."