DENVER, CO – Ascend Performing Arts participated in the 2023 Colfax Marathon Relay along with nearly 200 other Colorado nonprofits.
This year’s “Team Ascend” was made up of Daniel Belcher, Keenan Evans, GM Kuzma, Jordan Kuzma, and Chase Llamzon. The relay team divided the 26.2 mile marathon into five increments of varying length, running around downtown Denver.
This was the first time the Ascend team was made up of both Blue Knights Alumni and current Staff members. Daniel Belcher was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps from 2016-2019 and has been on staff since 2020. He is currently serving as the Executive Director of the drum corps. Keenan Evans was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps from 2010-2012 and Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble in 2013 and 2014. He’s been on staff for the drum corps since 2013 and with the percussion ensemble since 2015 in various administrative positions. He is currently serving as the Executive Director of the percussion ensemble. GM Kuzma was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 1994 and has been a volunteer staff since. He formally joined the Ascend Performing Arts staff in 2014 and is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer. Jordan Kuzma was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps from 1997-2000 and was an instructor in 2001. She has worked on the Ascend Performing Arts staff since 2014 in various roles but most recently as the Director of Marketing & Merchandising. Chase Llamzon was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 2021 and the Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble in 2017, 2019-2022. He has been on staff for the drum corps from 2022-2023 and percussion ensemble in 2023. In addition, Jillian Oppegard provided logistics and transportation support for Team Ascend this year. She was a member of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 2000, 2001, and 2003. She was on Ascend Performing Arts staff in 2016 and 2017. She is currently serving as the Director of Strategic Communications for Ascend Performing Arts.
“Ascend’s continued involvement year-after-year in the Colfax Marathon has turned out to be a successful partnership with other community charities beyond the performing arts,” said GM Kuzma, Ascend’s Team Captain. “It has also provided our Blue Knights members, alumni, and staff the opportunity to elevate their life performance through fitness.”
Over 200 charity partners participated in the 2023 edition of this historic marathon race events, many of which could be found among the bright, blue-peaked tents of Charity Partner Village in Denver’s City Park on the days of the races. The Village was crowded with the excitement of around 20,000 runners, friends, and families, and served as excellent exposure for the non-profit partners. Ascend Performing Arts has been recognized by organizers as a frequent participant in the Colfax Marathon Relay, as a local organization with a global impact. Ascend’s teams promoted its four mission areas revolving around ensembles, education clinics, events, and entertainment. They also connected with other Blue Knights alumni and runners who ran one of several distances such as the 5K, 10 Miler, Half Marathon, Full Marathon and the Marathon Relay. Ascend also promoted one of its premier events of the summer: Drums Along the Rockies.
One of the most cherished things about the Colfax Marathon is that it’s all for charity, and they do their best to raise as much awareness about their partners as possible.
Ascend CEO, Mark Arnold, highlighted the mission of Ascend and how it furthers the mission to “Elevate Life Performance” on and off the field:
“We create a stage in which young people pursue excellence through music, through our performing ensembles (Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble, and Blue Knights Winds), which provides our 200+ performers with a vehicle to showcase their excellence to thousands of people worldwide. On top of that, Ascend provides a stage for these performers as well, through hosting of events like Drums Along the Rockies and Corps Encore during the summer, and Friendship Cup scholastic marching band shows in the Fall. Ascend also stresses the importance of music education, and thus hosts multiple BKXperience clinics year-round that reach thousands of students,” said Arnold.
The Ascend Team finished in 4 hours and 20 minutes, placing in 9th place out of 23 teams in the Corporate Nonprofit division. Although the team did not podium this year, Ascend has had two top-3 finishes previously. Ascend placed 2nd in 2022 and 3rd in 2015 running the Colfax Marathon Relay. At the end of it all, it was an invaluable experience for Ascend Performing Arts to embody the connection between fitness and the performing arts.
Want to Run for Ascend in 2024? Let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.