By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4) – “We still work it!” Dr. Vern Howard proudly exclaimed.
Despite a deficit facing the MLK Jr. Marade, this year Dr. Howard says the organization managed to give away 500 turkeys and help provide more than 1,500 people with warm clothes for the upcoming winter.
Dr. Howard is the Chairman for the Martin Luther King Junior Colorado Holiday Commission. The non-profit puts on the annual Marade and Howard says right now there is about a $40,000 shortfall.
Corporate sponsors dropped out after protests at the 2016 Marade. The February 2017 Marade saw a low turnout and a loss of over $60,000. Something special events chairwoman, Shyretta Hudnall is working to rectify.
“That situation [protests] created apprehension among our corporate sponsors.” Said Hudnall. “What it does is it makes sponsors say ‘well if it makes our families afraid to come out, then we don’t get that visibility that we look for’ and so then it makes them not as willing to contribute.”
Right now there is a big concern for the programs that rely on money raised from the Marade.
“It eliminates our ability to be able to provide scholarships which is one of the most important things that we do because it has the most lasting impact,” aaid Hudnall.
Making matters worse is Dr. Howard’s health.
In September, he suffered a serious head injury after a printer he was donating toppled out of the back of a truck, crushing his skull. Howard is still working on his speech and suffers from constant migraines. He can no longer do for the organization what he once did. He isn’t certain if he will be able to make the upcoming Marade.
“I will be following the orders of my concussion therapist, my physician and my wife and my wife trumps them all,” he chuckled. “I hope to be here it’d be the first one I’ve ever, ever missed in my life.”
He plans to make a full recovery but for now, wants people to know about all the programs the Marade sets the platform for.
“We’re a 100% volunteer organization so every nickle we receive goes to the community and to the programs that support the community,” said Howard.
The upcoming 2018 Marade will go on but the need for increased security measures has been costly. In total, the march requires about $100,000 in donations to put on. Both Hudnall and Dr. Howard say if the lack of support continues, cancelling it in February of 2019 is a real possibility.
Right now, the organization is focused on making the Marade this February the best it can be.
“We’re not focused on negativity, we’re not focused on things that happened in the past, we’re looking forward to growing and being inclusive of all of the people who, over that past couple of years have honestly felt like they have been marginalized and left behind.” Said Hudnall.
Click here if you would like to make a donation.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.