Gala Surpasses Fundraising Goals!

 Renaissance by the River 2017

On Saturday, October 21, 2017, two hundred guests gathered in St. Lawrence Commons at Christendom College to celebrate Renaissance by the River, Chelsea Academy’s 10th-annual gala. Thanks to the creativity, hard work and generosity of Chelsea family and friends, the evening was a rousing success.

“We had two major goals,” said gala co-chair Mary Brand. “Our first goal was to raise $100,000, and our second was equally important: that our guests have a really great time. I think we surpassed expectations on both of these goals.”      

To set the stage for the evening, parent volunteers, led by Alex Klassen and fellow gala co-chair Kaylie Miller, spent hours setting up, decorating, and preparing the room for the sold-out event. Colorful vases of flowers arranged by Mary Wingate, Kathleen Lagarde, and Becky Barvick graced the tables.  “The decor was simple, but elegant,” said Alex. “The whole commons and especially the flowers looked beyond amazing!  Many volunteers, including Julia Butler and Elizabeth Pilon went above and beyond in their help with setting up.”

Co-chair Nancy Bauer, who headed up the efforts to raise funds before the event, praised the many families and businesses that made the evening possible. “We are so grateful to our sponsors and advertisers and all of the students and families that helped to solicit them. Our student ad and sponsorship competition raised over $14,000, with the McCarthy and Olsen families winning the top five prizes.” 

From start to finish, the evening celebrated the school’s landmark anniversary with elegant, playful touches contributed by Chelsea friends, alumni, students, and families. Guests were welcomed to the evening event with bagpipes played by Chelsea grandparent Jim Lundt. Chelsea student Jimmy Lee (‘19) walked on stilts, and Dylan Riccio (‘19) juggled. In the Commons foyer, Beibhinn Rowland and Naomi Egger played lovely music on violins, guests picked up their programs designed by Chelsea grandparent Linda Saker and name tags with beautiful rose gold calligraphy crafted by Annie Lloyd of Pretty Mail Calligraphy. Chelsea parent Wendy Lee, who oversaw the bar and the entertainment, was thrilled with the event. “I think this is the best gala yet,” she exclaimed.

Guests mingled while sipping cocktails served by Peter Lee (‘13) and Joe McFadden, and they enjoyed hors d’oeuvres served by junior and senior students dressed professionally in black and white. An amazing array of silent auction items, donated by generous people and businesses, were displayed elegantly and creatively around the room. Items included hand-made items and original artwork, food and wine, professional services, one-of-a-kind experiences, and getaways. “I have been to many fundraising auctions, but the really neat thing about this was just how many artisans were represented,” commented one guest. “For example, the wooden bowl made by Tom Zepeda or the beautiful bookcase by Michael Miller at Durabelle Builders — you really don’t see that in other places.” Guests enjoyed bidding on the silent auction and got very competitive for many items. Among the most popular items were Christmas wreaths made by Chelsea sophomore Agnes Wingate (‘20) and the “Favorite Cocktail” basket and tub donated by the junior class. The silent auction raised over $15,000 for the school.

After an invocation by Fr. Jerome Fasano, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church, guests enjoyed green salads followed by an inspiring address by Chelsea Headmaster Jonathan Brand. Highlighting ten reasons to celebrate Chelsea at its 10th-annual gala, he encouraged guests to continue to help Chelsea live out its mission. “Gifts to Chelsea will be multiplied far beyond Front Royal and far into the future,” he pointed out, “for they are an investment in young people who are being prepared to do great things with their lives.”   

Guests enjoyed a delicious dinner and dessert prepared by Chelsea alumni parent Carol Little, assisted by Mariefe Sotelo and Shoana Riccio. Customized stemless wine glasses, engraved with the Chelsea crest, adorned the tables and served as mementos for the guests to take home from the event, along with chocolate coins with the image of St. Thomas More. Several people won door prizes, including Chelsea parent Mimi Uhlenkott and Chelsea teacher Stephen Foster.

Faculty member Chris Foeckler emcee’ed the evening and served as an entertaining auctioneer for the live auction. The bidding was lively, and the twelve live auction items were very popular. A last-minute addition to the auction was a bronze bust of Pope Saint John Paul the Great, donated by internationally-renowned sculptor H. Reed Armstrong. “We had dedicated the gala to his patronage since it fell on the eve of his feast day,” said Mary Brand. “When he showed up the day before the auction, it was a great blessing!” 

Co-chair Kaylie Miller emphasized the community effort the evening represents: “I am so thrilled that we were able to raise such an incredible amount of money for the school we all hold so near and dear. As the chair of the auction, the live and silent areas really could not have gone more smoothly. Terri Barnikel, Candice Lee Van Schaick, Eileen Janaro,  Stephen Pilon and Doug Briggs were invaluable in helping to pull it off without any truly noticeable hitch. I am so very grateful to all.”   

New board member and Chelsea parent Doug McCarthy led the Tuition Angels appeal. He had the audience laughing with his funny anecdotes and inspired an extraordinary display of generosity as guests and benefactors raised their paddles en masse to help make a Chelsea education within reach for as many students as possible. He noted that 100% of faculty and staff of Chelsea had already donated or pledged to Tuition Angels. Over $50,000 was raised in the effort, which was then matched by a generous donor. New this year, as a thank you, Tuition Angel donors were entered into two drawings for special getaways donated by Chelsea grandparent Dr. Eleanor Kelly. Board members Joe McPherson and Brent Bozell won the trips.  

At the end of the evening guests were invited to stay and mingle or to gather outside by the fire pit for cigars, donated by Matt Akers. Inside, talented musician Mr. John Lamirande, formerly of Six String Soldiers, serenaded those that stayed with acoustic guitar and vocals. At 11:00, the evening wrapped up with a final prayer and the singing of the Salve Regina, led by Chris Foeckler.  

Chris Foeckler, the man of the evening.

In the words of co-chair Elena Patrice,  “Everything was immensely blessed, and we have so much to be thankful for! I think the night was magical, and I received so much positive feedback. It was a privilege to be part of this, and, honestly, I can’t wait until next year!”

While final numbers are still coming in, Greg Lynch, Director of Development, projected a grand total of more than $315,000, and added, “We are so grateful to all of our sponsors, advertisers, donors, guests, volunteers, and benefactors. This evening could not have been such a success without all of these people. This was truly a grand celebration of the first ten years of Chelsea! I am so glad to be a part of this school. Here’s to many more!”

This Gala stuff is serious work!!
Crunching Numbers!!