Long-time CASA volunteer Jane Hegstrom first visited the dermatology practice Vanguard Skin Specialists back in 2016. She was impressed with the service she received but what she didn’t know is that the budding relationship would blossom into a powerful partnership for CASA.
“It started when I called the practice’s Executive Director, Leisle Chung,” Jane recalled. “Leisle’s husband is Dr. Vinh Chung and I had read his book about his life as a refugee child. I asked Leisle if Dr. Chung could come speak to some of the foster teens at CASA about overcoming obstacles and succeeding.”
Dr. Chung did come speak to the teens. The practice then offered skincare sessions to the teens, included CASA in several donation drives held by its Clara skincare line, sponsored CASA Light of Hope fundraisers, and ultimately became a business partner for CASA. In 2021 when Vanguard renewed its business partnership with CASA, the Chungs decided to add Clara as a second business partner.
“I knew right away that Vanguard was going to renew and we used it as an opportunity to add our retail skincare division Clara as well. We named Clara after our daughter. Clara means light and we wanted to be reminded why we started our organization,” Leisle explained. “Our hope was that the Clara skincare division would just be a light in this world so we made the decision to donate all the profits to causes that support women and children around the world, and CASA is one of the best organizations in this community that supports vulnerable children.”
Given their backstories as immigrants and refugees, the Chungs know firsthand about the need for more light in the world. Dr. Chung’s book – Where the Wind Leads – offers the story of his life as a Vietnamese refugee child who became a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon. Leisle Chung’s story is just as remarkable, as illustrated by the movie Minari, a semi-autobiographical look at a family of South Korean immigrants written and directed by her brother, Isaac Lee Chung.
Minari premiered at the Sundance Film Festival before being nominated for six Oscars (and winning one) at the 93rd Academy Awards this past April. The movie gained notoriety during the pandemic when theaters were mostly closed, but as the cloud of COVID-19 began to lift, theaters started opening and Leisle had the idea of taking themes from her brother’s movie – such as the importance of family and making sacrifices for those you love – and showing gratitude to local community members who have made sacrifices.
“We wanted to host people who had sacrificed over this past year like nonprofits, pastors, and first responders. We wanted to honor the essential heroes that took care of this community,” Leisle said. “So we thought ‘Let’s make it fun, let’s roll out the red carpet for local heroes’.”
Vanguard rented out several theaters across Colorado to show the film for free to first responders, teachers, front-line health care workers, and nonprofit leaders. The red carpet event even featured an awards ceremony to highlight local heroes even more, and CASA won the Hero award in the nonprofit sector.
“We wanted the award to go the CASA because the volunteers and staff had to go through so many challenges over the past year. It is challenging work and I think it was so much harder over this past year. We just wanted to applaud CASA for taking care of kids during a time where we were so isolated and we also wanted people in attendance to become aware of CASA so that they too can support the cause,” Leisle said.
In addition to supporting CASA, Vanguard Skin Specialists and Clara support humanitarian projects around the world. They’ve also opened offices in underserved communities to ensure excellent dermatology for people in Canon City, Pueblo, and Woodland Park.
Vanguard’s staff lives its mission of making a positive impact on their patients, their community, and their world. If you find yourself in need of dermatology care, look no further. Learn more about Vanguard Skin Specialists and Clara here.