Our son, Ford Church, is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Cottonwood Institute, whose mission is to connect diverse students to the outdoors and empower them to take action to help improve their schools, communities and the environment for future generations. My husband and I have supported Ford since its inception seven years ago, and he and his staff are making a huge difference for students in Boulder and Denver!

This year the Cottonwood Institute’s “Base Camp Bash” patron party was held at Genie and Steve Waters’ Crestmoor Drive home in Denver. We decided to bring New Orleans jazz, cuisine and cocktails to the patrons, who donated from $250 to $5,000 a couple. They were treated to sazaracs, mint juleps, French 75s, shrimp maison, chicken and andouille jambalaya and a six-foot-long poor boy that included fried shrimp, chicken and roast beef. The Lane Acker Jazztet greeted guests at the front door as they walked through a festively lighted tent. Board members and guests mingled, got to see programs offered to students and received my book, Entertaining Celebrations, as a gift. The book offers great ideas and recipes from our wonderful local restaurants: Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Ralph Brennen Restaurant Group, Upperline and more! Of course we had a second-line around the house and garden led by former New Orleanians Dickson and Gentry Griswold, Bill and Mary Kelly and Ford and Jessica Church.

Decorations included tents that we decorated with flower garlands we bought at Pier 1. A great tent at the entrance was decorated with ribbon and lighted garland accented with giant faux flowers. The welcoming red carpet was accented with painted metal flowers, and the Waters’ garden was profuse with tulips, pansies and wisteria that Genie planted. I added two arrangements in the living room filled with Casablanca lilies, larkspur, roses and viburnum, and the books were wrapped in tulle and placed on the table.

The “Base Camp Bash” was a week after the patron party at the Artwork Connection in Denver, and we created the look of a base camp again for them! This decorating idea would work for any outdoor program, such as Outward Bound or a school outdoor education program. The program that created Ford’s passion for creating The Cottonwood Institute was the outdoor education program offered at St. Martin’s Episcopal School. The program was canceled his senior year, and he promised himself that he would one day form a program of his own and “change the world” through his passion for the outdoors – he’s doing it!