Speakers Announced for the 50th Annual Awards Celebration

Jan 12, 2024

In a celebration of girls and women’s accomplishments in sports, the 50th Annual Sportswomen of Colorado Banquet is proud to announce its speakers for the upcoming event on March 17, 2024. Melissa Ward, a Captain at United Airlines, former University of Southern California basketball player, national champion, and avid golfer and Kirstie Ennis, a decorated athlete and amputee who has conquered some of the highest peaks in the world, will headline this year’s banquet.

Sportswomen of Colorado, with its mission to promote, honor, and empower girls and women in sports throughout the state, has consistently played a pivotal role in recognizing and celebrating the achievements of female athletes, coaches and contributors to female athletics. The 50th-anniversary banquet and fundraiser promises to be an unforgettable evening, highlighting the excellence of women in sports.

Captain Melissa (M’Lis) Ward’s journey is nothing short of inspirational. As the first female African American Captain for a commercial airline, M’Lis has been traveling down the path she saw her mother blaze as one of the first African American women to graduate from the University of Chicago Medical School. The bar had been set high in the Ward household and M’lis was more than up to the challenge.

M’lis attended the University of Southern California on an Air Force ROTC Scholarship, as well as, academic and athletic scholarships. While at USC, Melissa was a member of the two-time National Champion Women’s Basketball Team, an experience she says “is the closest I’ve ever come to flying without an airplane”.

Captain Ward’s career in commercial aviation began in November 1992 and she made history in 1998 by becoming the first female African American Captain for a commercial airline. She is currently a Captain on the Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft.  “I didn’t break down any barriers…the barriers were broken by those who came before me. Being the first is an honor I feel blessed to have received, but it would be a tragedy if I were the last.”

Ward resides in Denver and was the recipient of the Dominion Strong Men and Women Award that most recently honored President and Mrs. Obama, the Women at the Top of Their Game Award, and many others. She has been featured in Ebony, In the Black, Essence and Avid Golfer Magazines and has performed countless keynote addresses for several professional organizations around the country.

Glenwood resident, Kirstie Ennis, a former Marine Corps sergeant turned Paralympic snowboarder, triathlete, mountaineer, and philanthropist, brings a story of triumph to the Sportswomen of Colorado stage. After losing her leg in a helicopter crash during her second deployment to Afghanistan, Ennis did not let adversity define her. Instead, she embraced it and started on a journey of amazing achievements.

Notably, Ennis has reached six of the Seven Summits (the 7 highest peaks on each continent) with only Mt. Everest remaining. She was the first ever above-the-knee amputee to top Mount Kilimanjaro and she has twice been 600 feet from reaching the summit of Mt. Everest and has turned around due to the health and safety of her team.

She won the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2019 ESPY Awards and her courageous pursuit of excellence is truly remarkable. By sharing her experiences, Ennis aims to empower and encourage the Sportswomen of Colorado community.

The 50th Annual Sportswomen of Colorado Banquet represents a significant milestone in the organization’s legacy. For half a century, Sportswomen of Colorado has been a driving force behind the recognition of female athletes, fostering an environment where girls and women are celebrated for their achievements in sports.

Captain M’Lis Ward and Kirstie Ennis, with their diverse and inspiring backgrounds, embody the spirit of Sportswomen of Colorado’s mission, making them the perfect speakers for this special occasion. Tickets for the 50th Annual Sportswomen of Colorado Banquet are available now. Join us in celebrating the achievements of Colorado’s sportswomen, past, present, and future. Together, we continue to promote, honor, and empower girls and women in sports.

For more information and ticket details, please visit: https://sportswomenofcolorado.org/awardscelebration/