Hearts full for Empty Bowl

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When potter Ginny Cash began the Empty Bowl event 11 years ago, she never imagined it would become one of Castle Rock’s most coveted tickets.

Cash is a professional potter living in Larkspur who took up pottery after a career in corporate America. She relocated to Larkspur from Michigan and opened an art gallery in Castle Rock. It was at that gallery, during a conversation with an employee of the Women’s Crisis and Family Outreach Center, that she shared her experience with an empty bowl event in Michigan.

“I thought ‘wouldn’t that be a good thing to do for a fundraiser’,” Cash said. “So that’s when we started it.”

Cash organized a handful of potters at the Castle Rock recreation center to throw bowls for the first Empty Bowl to benefit victims of domestic violence. From the beginning, Cash has counted herself among those who each year donate 100 bowls to the event, and that first year participating potters donated 300 bowls for the Empty Bowl.

This year organizers expect between 800 and 1,000 will attend the event, where they can chose from about 2,000 bowls contributed by local potters from Colorado Springs to Aurora. When the Women’s Crisis and Family Outreach Center puts out the call for bowls, potters get to work from area high schools, where students throw bowls for the fundraiser, to recreation centers and pottery co-ops from across Douglas, Denver, El Paso, Elbert and Arapahoe counties.

The Empty Bowl has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the outreach center over its 11-year history and is hailed as one of the largest fundraisers in Douglas County.

“We are very excited about this event,” said Heather Orr, volunteer and special event coordinator, Women's Crisis and Family Outreach Center. “It’s something the community looks forward to every year … and we look forward to seeing all the bowls.”

The potters range from individual hobbyists who are throwing bowls for the first time, to seasoned professionals whose pottery career spans decades. Local potter Sally O’Brian Burns lives in Parker and teaches pottery at recreation centers in Highlands Ranch and at the South Suburban recreation center. She uses the Empty Bowl event as a learning opportunity for new potters.

“If you’re a new potter and you make 20 bowls in a row, by the 20th bowl you’re really going to like the bowl,” Burns said. “If you do something three times you’re pretty good at it. If you do something 100 times your darn good at it.”

Burns aims to join the elite group of potters with the distinction as a 100-bowl contributor. A contributing potter since 2000, Burns traditionally donates about 80 bowls each year. This year her goal is to donate 100 bowls in an effort that will take about a month, she said.

She is joined by potters such as Castle Rock’s Christy Fletcher, who has been donating bowls from the beginning. Fletcher has been a 100-bowl contributor for about eight years, an effort that consumes her “throwing” time for up to four months.

For potters like Fletcher, it’s well worth the effort.

“It’s such an amazing way to give back to the community,” Fletcher said. “The crisis center really needs the help and funding. Domestic violence is the number one crime in our community. It’s a great way of giving back to the community and doing something I love, which is an added bonus.”

The Empty Bowl event benefits the Women’s Crisis and Family Outreach Center in Castle Rock, which serves victims of domestic violence from across Colorado. The center reached 18,000 individuals in 2010, Orr said, with services that include emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis line, adult and child therapy and legal advocacy.

The Empty Bowl was selected as a way to symbolize the empty bowl left at the family table every time a victim flees domestic violence. Visitors to the event get their choice of a bowl from the thousands available and enjoy a dinner of soup, bread and dessert courtesy of area restaurants. More than 80 silent auction items will be up for auction, including spa packages, a tour at the Mike Nelson Weather Center, a Colorado rafting trip and a “DJ-for-a-Day” at KOSI 101.1, Orr said.

Before the night’s end, additional bowls will be available to purchase for $10 each. The 2011 Empty Bowl is from 6 – 9 p.m., March 4, at the Douglas County Events Center, 500 Fairgrounds Drive in Castle Rock. Tickets are $45 per person, tables for 10 are $500. For more information visit the crisis center at www.twcfoc.org or call 303-688-1094.

“It’s a great way of giving back to the community and doing something I love, which is an added bonus.”

Christy Fletcher, Castle Rock, contributing potter for the Empty Bowl.