5/19/2013: I can’t believe my second week is already over! This week was a busy one as we were getting ready for the gala! Friday we loaded up the U-Haul with all of the auction items, decorations, laptops, printers, registration info, signage and just about everything else we could possibly need for the night. While some people drove the U-Haul into Boston and dropped off all of the contents, a few of us stayed back and labeled guest registration folders. These folders contained their seat number, bid number, guest info, and any other info that volunteers could possibly need to know about the guest.
Saturday afternoon finally rolled around and I had to be at the hotel mid-afternoon. I arrived around 2:30 and my first task was to head across the street to Shaw’s and pick up five boutonnieres and three dozen balloons. Crossing a busy Boston street with all of those was quite the sight to see I’m sure! After placing all of the balloons in their respective locations, I was assigned to help set up the main ballroom. My first task in the ballroom was to set the center pieces- which were amazing. There were two different centerpieces; the first was a lampshade-esque piece with words such as “triumph” and “persevere” written all around the sides and the second were three separate pieces that had pictures of kids with Type 1 Diabetes in Massachusetts, one had short testimony quotes, and the third had the strength words again. What was really neat about these centerpieces was that they all illuminated right before the beginning of the Gala. These lights were all controlled by a remote and they looked magnificent all lit up! After finishing the centerpiece set up, I helped one of the staff members double check all seating arrangements. This was important because there had been some last minute changes and we wanted all guests to be seated according to their requests.
Shortly after this, I changed into my dress and then reported to volunteer training. Since I was responsible for the sales of the “A Chance to Win Gold!” portion of the evening, I had two volunteers assigned to me (in addition to Mrs. Massachusetts (Barrie Lynch) who would be helping). These volunteers were responsible for selling 150 chances to guests. Each chance cost $100 and every person who bought a chance would walk away with a gold bracelet. However, one lucky guest would walk away with the $12,000 gold and diamond bracelet! My job was to keep track of how many chances we had sold- up to 150- and to keep the executive director updated every so often. Mrs. Massachusetts wore the bracelet until all guests entered the ballroom at around 7:40- after that I became the keeper of the very expensive bracelet!
The program started around 7:45 with awards presented to Bill Burnett (founder of the Cohassett Triathlon and longtime supporter of JDRF) and Gary Hall Jr. (Olympic Swimmer and Advocate for Type 1 Diabetes and JDRF). Following the awards, the guests ate dinner and then the live auction started. The reveal of the “Chance to Win Gold” bracelet was in the middle of the live auction. This dramatic reveal had about 15 volunteers handing out long, gold bracelet boxes to everyone who had purchased a chance. All of the boxes were opened at the same time, revealing the winner. My job was to find the winner and give them their new bracelet! Overall, it was a very successful component of the gala.
My favorite moment of the night was the portion following the live auction known as “Fund A Cure.” This gives guests the opportunity to directly donate a sum of money to JDRF and research in honor of Gary Hall, Jr. It was incredible to watch the generosity of every single guest in that ballroom. The finally tally hasn’t been announced yet- but it was clear that a large sum was raised! Another inspiring moment was when a child (who suffers from Type 1 Diabetes) introduced the speaker of the night, Gary Hall, Jr. This child, who was only 12 years old, was incredibly inspiring and showed great strength and courage throughout his speech.
The night ended for the guests with some dancing, drinks, and delicious desserts! While the guests were enjoying the live band, the staff and some volunteers were the in check-out room preparing the auction items for pickup.
This was such a wonderful learning opportunity for me. I learned a lot about coordinating and running special events, but I also learned the value of personal connection with donors. Simply by talking to them and learning their story, they are more likely to donate and support the cause. Having the opportunity to talk to so many of the guests, hearing their stories and learning how JDRF has changed their lives proves that nonprofit organization do change people’s lives every day and I am so looking forward to my journey into this sector!