Behind the Scenes: An Inside Peek at the 2018 Chelsea Gala

Among the great pleasures in life is the chance to show up at an elegant event and just enjoy the simplicity of being a guest. Take, for instance,an evening at the Chelsea Gala. You walk into a beautifully-decorated room, are greeted warmly by Chelsea faculty and gala committee members. You have the time to take in the tables attractively set for dinner with candles and a tasteful, hand-crafted centerpiece of local flowers. Live music plays in the background, an unobtrusive accompaniment to the cheerful chatter of the other guests. A Chelsea student-turned-server, dressed in the traditional black-and-white waitstaff apparel, approaches you with an appetizing arrangement of tasty hors d’oeuvres to take the edge off your hunger. The open bar is directly ahead of you and you think to yourself, “Hmm, maybe a cocktail or a glass of wine in hand would be the perfect way to begin my leisurely perusal of the many auction items lining the perimeter of the room”. And from here the evening continues to magically unfold with a catered dinner, a lively auction and plenty of socializing.

This is the way I experienced the Chelsea Gala every time I sauntered in as a guest. Everything just seems to flow. Never a glitch, never a flaw; seamless and easy. Last year, however, when I became a gala volunteer, I stepped behind the curtain and realized that those moments, tastes, and sights that seemed to have magically appeared, represented hundreds of hours of work by a group of men and women who can only be described as astounding in their talents, commitment, and selflessness. Each Gala chair that I personally worked with last year, and am working with again this current year, are all spouses and parents. Indeed — devoted parents — some of whom have many children! I also came to understand that these exceedingly talented wives and husbands have equally understanding and supportive husbands and wives!

I am humbled by how these men and women have taken their strengths in a certain area and molded it to play a crucial part in forming this event. And what an event! The Chelsea Gala is THE main fundraiser for the school. Where would it be without the tireless efforts of Elena, Suzanne, Candice, Wendy, Doug, Kaylie, Kathleen, and Jan? These volunteers make the gala come to life! No guest sees the numerous phone calls and emails that are placed and written asking for sponsors and auction items. Meeting after meeting, discussion after discussion, prayers, weighing the pros and cons, communicating, more prayers, delegating, recruiting volunteers, organizing, adopting coping mechanisms, details, details, and more details! The list is seemingly endless.

BUT! The crazy part — and the good news — is, that stepping behind the curtain to witness the many details, mundane and magical, that make the Chelsea Gala sparkle, does not make the evening less enjoyable. In fact, it makes it all the more enjoyable. Why? Because this is a truly worthwhile cause – it’s for the students – many of whom are still children, and many of whom are on the brink of adulthood. These students are all those who will, in time, become the leaders and voice for the future of our society. Chelsea Academy is there to help properly form these students so that they can take on strong leadership roles and be that worthwhile example in a world thirsty for this type of refreshment. My husband (yes, one of those amazingly supportive spouses!) and I refer to the wonderful aspects of Chelsea Academy in just four simple words: “It is a Godsend”.

Maybe another reason, besides the great cause, that the gala stays so enjoyable is that getting to that day is inevitably filled with comedic moments. Case in point: it’s Gala committee meeting time. Tuesday at 2 p.m. A reasonable time of day, except that, on this day, it’s 1:40 p.m., and I am in my pajamas. (It’s a long story.) “What do I wear? Do I even have time to get dressed or should I just throw on a jacket??” I am a busy mom with five young children, but I want to at least TRY to rock that personna of ‘mom of many – I can handle it all!’. After the meeting, a friend tells me in a most sincere tone that I never appear to be flurried or stressed (for real!). Really?! Wow. I pulled it off, I think to myself, until I see my son (the little traitor) who was with me at the time this comment was made, vehemently shaking his head when he hears this and laughing OUT LOUD! My cover is blown.

Or the moment, on the day of the event, that the checklist check-off is running like clockwork — Flower arrangements? Check. Silverware counted and polished? Check. Outdoor Decor? Check. Adequate table spacing? Check. Pipe and Draping system to separate the kitchen busy-ness from the elegant event? Check. NO! Just kidding! UN-CHECK that! A big “Oopsies” forms in my spaghetti-like brain. How did I miss this important detail when I have bullet points lists lying around everywhere?! A quick call to a friend who has an established relationship with the rental company and cha-ching!! Pipe and Draping system is on its way. Phew.

Only … it is now 5:00 p.m.! The doors are about to open to the first few guests just strolling up to the entrance. I am preparing the handcrafted charcuterie boards which (according to my perfect checklist) are supposed to have a hearty selection of local meats, cheeses and nuts on them by this time. Have you ever tried to take the wrappers off salami with the first guest basically breathing down your neck? It is not fun. Some would even say it is stressful! I would say it is a waste of time that I don’t have. Suddenly the wrapping and I are in a struggle for survival, and the wrapping is winning.. Why oh why didn’t I prepare these charcuterie boards earlier? (Remind me that hindsight is always 20/20.) I stuff my aforementioned and unfinished checklist under one of the side tables as the guests start to arrive. The cheese and meats are still in their wrappers. And then, THEN my amazing group of hard-working and dedicated Chelsea students (from the junior and senior classes) swoop down on me and diligently take over the suddenly simple task of opening the charcuterie items. They don’t seem to find it hard at all. I guess it was me … and my shattered nerves. Did I mention that Chelsea Academy has an awesome built-in support network?! And an intuitive bunch of truly thoughtful and caring parents? And a really wonderful selection of helpful young people who make up the student body?! Yes people. It is true. All of it. Can’t wait to see you on the 20th of October. #believeinchelseaacademytwothumbsup

Post  by: Alex Klassen, Chelsea Development Coordinator and Parent

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