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Inspiring Stories from Westminster & Thornton

The heart of our mission at VoyageDenver is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of Denver’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool. Check out Westminster & Thornton’s rising stars below.

Peggy Haddad

Over three years ago, we did a full home renovation. Lots of friends then started asking for help with their homes. I loved decorating for them so much that I started dreaming about starting my own business. Since I have two small children, I wanted to be able to work from home and help people virtually. I also saw a need for more affordable and accessible interior design / decorating services. Out of this vision, my virtual studio ‘for any style and any budget’ was born. I have a business degree and I am also a CPA, so I did not have much hesitation or fear about running a business. After helping several friends with their homes in 2019, I officially launched PHI in January 2020. With COVID, we are spending more time at home and are increasingly motivated to create a comfortable home environment. So the timing worked out well for my business model that was set up to specialize in e-design / virtual design from the beginning. There has been so much interest in my custom e-design services, and not enough time to help everyone individually. Read more>>

Hannah Clay

When I was young I was diagnosed with ADHD. My firecracker energy levels quickly exhausted my parents to the point where they were willing to do just about anything to get a break. This lead to horseback riding lesson and eventually buying me a pony, which we still use in our program today. My parents would drop me off at the barn almost daily. There I was able to connect with the horses and unknowingly learn some amazing therapeutic skills such as emotional regulation, empathy, and some life skills such as problem solving and how to interact with other horse crazy kids my age. My parents who had felt like they had tried everything were amazed at the impact that horses were having on not only my emotional health but also the ability to manage my ADHD. When I went through college I got stuck in my life. I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life. I felt like I had to put on a façade that everything was perfect while inside I felt trapped. Read more>>

Zaneta Johns

In 2020, I moved out of retirement and stepped into my purpose. Now, I am a two-time bestselling author. To God be the glory! I was raised in Hammond, Louisiana with five wonderful fun loving siblings. I arrived in Colorado during the summer of 1975 to attend the University of Colorado. My older brother was attending graduate school at CU and graciously took me under his wings. I’m not sure he realized that he would become my mentor for life. Our hardworking parents modeled love and compassion while encouraging us to be our best selves. Colorado and specifically, CU-Boulder, transformed my life. As I acquired critical thinking skills, engaged with different cultures, and learned more about my own culture, I matured and my confidence grew. I instantly fell in love with this beautiful state and decided to make Colorado my home. I believe that every word shared is an opportunity to love. Read more>>

Caitlin Bovard

My upbringing is relevant as no one person exists in a vacuum, and I’m lucky to have a job that is basically being who I needed when I was younger. I was raised in what may have well been the bible belt and received what I guess you could loosely call sex ed that seemed more harmful than helpful. By the time I went to college in the Pacific Northwest, I was hoping a more progressive area would be more enlightened about sexuality, but found more silence and weirdness surrounding these topics as a whole. Perhaps subconsciously inspired by Dan Savage’s column in The Stranger, I decided to start my own sex column in the school newspaper. By the time I graduated, I had founded a dedicated sexuality section that still exists today, over a decade later. Meanwhile, my majors in undergrad were pre-med and studio art and I was set on Physician Assistant school. But something continued to bother me… the idea I would see my patients for 15 minutes, spend way more than that on paperwork and then see them again. Read more>>

Amy K Gearhard

I have always liked a challenge. I had no idea what kind of challenge I was signing up for 20+ years ago. In a college psychology class, I quickly became interested in a 1960’s article called ‘Screams, Slaps and Love’, which highlighted the stories of several children with autism. I couldn’t imagine a population of children with “broken minds” or that could be described as “living with the devil” and “frothing at the mouth” – and if there were, I needed to see for myself. I spoke to my professor that day and took a position volunteering in a home with two boys, eager to investigate the horrific article. The slapping was nowhere to be found, there was plenty of screaming, but most importantly – I fell in love with autism and its intricacies from the moment we met. I showed up daily, notebook in hand. Unfortunately, hired staff were difficult to keep consistently. Within weeks, I was offered a position and found myself incessantly researching how to teach a 6-year-old boy with autism to speak. Furthermore, I was trying to figure out what to teach his 2-year-old brother with autism, whose response to any question I asked was spelling a large word – while counting the syllables on his hand. Read more>>

Andrea Quarles

I am a mother of two awesome boys and a ton of furbabies! I’ve been energy-curious my whole life. Growing up on a farm in the rural Midwest, I saw life and death and the cycles in-between and always valued each step. The little town I grew up in was tiny with mentalities that felt even smaller sometimes. Bigotry, racism, and hatefulness was abound in my area, but I tried to always choose love. In this environment, I learned what hate is and where it comes from and to choose another way. As a teenager, I was blessed with getting to visit a much older cousin in Sedona, Arizona, who was a reiki practitioner. She opened my entire world. Showing me that there are others who believe there is more than what we see and that we ourselves can work with these energies. From that point forward, I worked on whoever I could becoming a Reiki practitioner and certified massage therapist myself at 18. I was only able to do massage therapy for a couple of years before getting debilitating carpal tunnel. I continued my studies in energy work by becoming a Reiki Master. Still wanting to serve my coming more, I decided to become trained as a Certified Holistic Integrative Nutrition coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Read more>>

Stephanie Soder

I first had a massage in 1987 in a gym in New Jersey; this was also the first time I ever felt relaxed. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a massage therapist, but it took a few years for me to find a massage school, the funds, and the confidence to do it. The Colorado sports scene in 1994 was growing, so I enrolled in school with the assumption that I would do sports massage. Not being an athlete myself, it didn’t resonate, but fortunately, computers were also becoming more prevalent in workplaces and homes, and I found my niche doing stress-relief massage. In 2005 I enrolled back in college after a 20-year break. At the time, Metropolitan State College of Denver was developing an Integrative Health Program as part of the Health Professions Department. I was excited to be the fifth person to declare my major in Integrative Therapeutic Practices (now called Integrative Therapies.) I thoroughly enjoyed the program and found my healing path there through the amazing teachers and other students passionate about Holistic and Complementary Health. Because it’s a Bachelor’s of Science program, the science side fed my geeky brain while the Holistic side fed my spiritual heart. Read more>>

Itzel Annaly Bailon

I came to the United States in 2005 and started freshmen year in high school. Not speaking the langue was a bit scary, but I was ready for the challenge. I’ve always been a go-getter and my parent’s support has been key. I graduated with honors and received the presidential award “Leaders of the future” that impacted my life. I wanted to help my community inspire others and make a difference. I started college at CCD, and after graduating from the dental program, I got offered a job at a non-profit clinic. I felt so happy serving my people and the community I became a health care advocate. I also attended various leadership training at Colorado Center for nursing excellence, but I wanted to do more… I always dreamed of being my own boss! While on a family vacation, we all agreed to start this dream as we all wanted something of our own to combine our talents and serve our community in a different way. Growing up in Mexico, the only thing that made us feel close to home was the food. Read more>>

Cami Malone

I am the sole owner and operator of Bake My Day. I have always had a passion for all things, artistic, expressive, and creative. As many were navigating through young adult life, I had a hard time deciding what my “why” in life would be. I always knew I was meant for a career with a creative outlet but found myself less than thrilled about all the avenues I pursued. Through all of my trials and tribulations, one thing was consistent, and that was my form of stress relief. Any time I was stressed, sad, excited, or anxious, I would turn to bake. Something about ignoring the outside world for a few hours and creating a delicious and beautiful dessert became the perfect way to find balance in the hustle and bustle of day to day life. It was then that I decided; This hobby of mine could be more. I wanted to chase this feeling and turn baking into a career. After two years of community college and probably about five failed “majors,” I enrolled in Johnson & Wales University to the Baking and Pastry Arts and Food Service Management program. It was there that I learned everything there was to know about the science of baking, the art of creating recipes. Read more>>

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