2020 Citizen of the Year | Donna Giardano - Vail Valley Foundation

2020 Citizen of the Year | Donna Giardano

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2020 Citizen of the Year | Donna Giardano

View this story with more photos in our Annual Report!


Vail, Colo., Dec. 23, 2019 — Written into the culture of the Vail Valley, engraved in its history, and embedded in its future are the countless contributions Donna Giordano has made to virtually every aspect of life here.

Donna Giordano was named the 2020 Vail Valley Citizen of the Year. Photo by Rex Keep, courtesy Vail Valley Foundation.

For her many contributions to this community, the Vail Valley Foundation today announced that Giordano is the 2020 Vail Valley Citizen of the Year, one of the highest honors in the community, awarded since 1981 to a deserving citizen who has provided broad support, vision, and leadership to the betterment of the community.

“I feel very blessed and grateful to receive this recognition,” Giordano said. “It is really all of you in this community who are such an inspiration – there are so many wonderful people and organizations in these beautiful mountains, and I simply love being a part of it with all of you.”

“Donna is an inspirational friend and a wonderful person, she has an amazing charm and ability to make anyone feel welcome in any circumstance,” said Ann Smead, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Vail Valley Foundation, which administers the award each year. “She has supported so many nonprofits of our valley, and in many other communities, not just with financial support but by truly becoming involved. And, of course, she is a fun person to all who know her.”

Giordano’s philanthropic outreach is matched by her volunteerism, and both have been immense. She was a lynchpin to the first decades of the Vail Dance Festival, helping it grow into an international celebration of the artform. Along the way, the Vail Dance Festival’s primary home, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, benefited from her patronage and participation in every way, from support of capital improvements to underwriting of performances and, of course, to her consistent and significant support of the Hot Summer Nights free concert series.

“The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is one of the special places on earth, and I feel strongly that everyone should be able to enjoy it,” Giordano said. “I love the free concerts and seeing everyone out there enjoying themselves in that wonderful facility.”

Giordano isn’t one to simply provide support from afar. Look into the aisles for the fashionable blonde, dancing her heart out at a Ford Amphitheater concert – that’s Donna.

“She is totally engaged in everything she does,” Smead said. “She takes part in it and embraces her time in our community … and she does it with impeccable style.”

Indeed, Giordano’s loving personality and exceptional sense of fashion have gained her iconic status in the valley. Her joie de vivre is contagious, her wardrobe is alight with glamor & color, and her parties are part of Vail lore. She even has a specialty cocktail named after her at one of her favorite local establishments.

A shining example of Giordano’s giving-with-style can be seen at Fire Station No. 2, where a sparkling red resin floor, donated by Giordano, is one of countless ways she has supported emergency services personnel throughout the years.

“Donna Giordano is a treasure,” said Mark Novak, Vail Fire Chief. “She’s the embodiment of what makes this community so special.”

“Not only do we have, in Donna, a truly phenomenal supporter of all that we do, but we have a great friend. She instantly lights up the day of any of our officers and emergency services personnel who encounter her,” said Dwight Henninger, Vail Police Chief.

Giordano’s support for fire and police organizations in the Vail Valley has been unflagging, and yet it is only one aspect of a vast body of philanthropic work.

Giordano has been a key contributor to the arts, athletics, and education programming of the Vail Valley Foundation, where she joined the Board of Directors in 2001 as one of the first, and brightest, female voices of that Board. She was a celebrity dancer at the 2016 Star Dancing Gala, raising funds for the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365, and she was on the Black Diamond Ball organizing committee for many years, including as co-Chair from 2012-2014 and Chair in 2015.

She has also served on the Board of Directors of Bravo! Vail, and provided a wide array of support for Vail Health, the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, Roundup River Ranch, Walking Mountains, and hosting an annual “Thank You Party” for emergency services personnel.

Beyond the Vail Valley, Giordano was exceptionally active and served on the Board of Directors of the Washington D.C.-area Ronald McDonald House. She served on the Board of the Directors of the Blue Ridge School, and also provided significant support to Craig Hospital and the Cedars-Mount Sinai Hospital.

In addition to all of the above, and of particular note, is her support of the Vail Veterans Program.

“Donna’s passion and commitment to serve our nation’s heroes is an inspiration to all that know her,” said Cheryl Jensen, President and Founder of the Vail Veterans program. “We are blessed to have her a part of our community. She is very deserving of this special honor.”

Giordano began coming to the Vail Valley in 1981 and moved here permanently in 2001 soon after the passing of her husband, Gilbert Giordano. Both ‘Gil’ and Donna were active in the Vail Valley community and beyond, and Gil received the Vail Valley Citizen of the Year award in 1997.

“Gil and I always believed that you give back to where you are,” Giordano remembers.

Giordano has also been successful in her professional pursuits. Born in Minnesota, where she was imbued with the classic Midwestern work ethic, Giordano can look back on a string of successful professional accomplishments – including a career in the legal field, a blossoming flower shop (which benefited from Giordano’s innate marketing skills), commercial real estate investments, and the creation of a successful chain of franchise restaurants together with her family.

Giordano has recently moved to Denver, but still visits Vail often, where she can be seen at events throughout town, lifting spirits wherever she goes. She has two children, Dawn Force (married to Tim Force), and Jason Giordano; and four grandchildren Sierra, Brittney, Jaxson and Jaidan.

“Donna is one of the bright lights of our community and we are so fortunate to have her in our lives,” said Mike Imhof, President of the Vail Valley Foundation. “It’s not just what she has done, but who she is, and the combination of all that she is creates an impact that will resonate in all of our lives for a long time to come.”

Giordano joins a venerable list of previous recipients of the award:

Previous Vail Valley Citizen of the Year honorees


1981       Peter Abuisi

1982       E.B. Chester

1983       Jack Crosby

1984       President Gerald R. Ford

1985       Harry Frampton

1986       Helen Fritch

1987       George Gillett

1988       Merv Lapin

1989       Sheika & Pepi Gramshammer

1990       Paul Johnston (& Gerald R. Ford)

1991       Kent Rose (& Phil and Jane Smiley)

1992       Rod Slifer (& John Galvin)

1993       Dr. Richard Steadman (& Winton and Carolyn Blount)

1994       John Garnsey (& Bob Brotman)

1995       John Horan-Kates (& Brian Nolan)

1996       Vi & Byron Brown (& John Boll)

1997       Gil Giordano (& Alison Knapp)

1998       Barbara Treat (& Craig Tuber)

1999       Judy Alexander

2000       Pete Seibert (& Peter May)

2001       Mary Louise Shaw (& Vince Cook)

2002       Gerald Gallegos (& Michael Balk)

2003       Cathy & Howard Stone (& Suzy and Jim Donohue)

2004       Oscar Tang (& Susan and Harry Frampton)

2005       Diana Donovan

2006       Chupa Nelson

2007       Erik & Kathy Borgen

2008       Jack Eck

2009       Beth Slifer

2010       Martha Head

2013       Ann Smead

2014       Amy & Steve Coyer

2015       Pat & Pete Frechette

2016        Mary Sue & Mike Shannon

2017       Jay Precourt

2019        Betsy and George Wiegers

2020        Donna Giordano

*In 2018 the award dates shifted to reflect the new dates of the Black Diamond Ball, where the Award is presented each year.

** From 1990 – 2005 the Beaver Creek Citizen of the Year Award was awarded as an integrated aspect of the Vail Valley Citizen of the Year Award. Beaver Creek recipient indicated by parenthesis.


About the Vail Valley Foundation

The Vail Valley Foundation is a 501c3 Colorado nonprofit with a mission to enhance the quality of life in the Vail Valley and showcase our community to a global audience through arts, athletics and education.

The organization’s work in education is through YouthPower365, which operates as its own 501c3 with a mission to provide year-round extended learning opportunities that empower and educate the youth and families of Eagle County from cradle-to-career readiness. The Vail Valley Foundation also provides the Vail Valley with several of its most treasured annual events, such as the GoPro Mountain Games, the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup races, the Vail Dance Festival, and the Hot Summer Nights and ShowDown Town free concert series’. The Vail Valley Foundation also manages and operates the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek Village and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, providing more than 100 Broadway, dance, classical, rock, pop, jazz and family events per year.

Vail Valley Foundation activities and events are made possible by cornerstone partners: the Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, GMC, and TIAA Bank. Visit www.vvf.org to learn more.

To learn more about the Vail Valley Foundation activities and events visit www.vvf.org.

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