Athens Drive hosts its first ever Winter Charity Gala, raising 4600 dollars for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

Jankhna Sura, Editorials Editor

Chilled air, loud music and energetic laughs coursed through the venue at Athens Drive’s first ever Winter Charity Gala, Jan. 26, 2019. The event was held at Chatham Station from 7-10 p.m. and hosted by the Athens Drive Health Science Academy. Sophomores Emily Bell and Lauren Garcia planned, organized and put on the event, raising 4600 dollars for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

“We had a phenomenal turnout for this first year and are looking forward to having more students come next year,” said Garcia.

Bell and Garcia began planning the event in October 2018 and chose St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital because they completely pay for treatments for kids of adolescent age in their battles against cancer. Both students supported the cause and wanted Athens Drive to help contribute to paying for children’s treatment of cancer.

“I think it’s important for high school kids to feel like they can have an impact on their community and that it’s important to get outside of our own comfortable bubbles to see what is happening in the world. I also felt that opening the event up to all grade levels was important to include everyone from every background to come together for a common cause and a fun evening together,” said Kristen Worrell, health science teacher.

In preparation for the gala, Bell and Garcia created a board to find an appropriate venue for the event after receiving Principal Stephen Mares’ approval to host the dance. Bell and Garcia also created a drive time video to market the gala, sent sponsorship letters to businesses and organizations to get donations, collected volunteers to help with set-up and cleanup and gathered food, drinks and decorations for the dance. A wall of the school was also selected and covered in sticky notes with reasons the students wanted to support the gala and charity. Bell and Garcia also fundraised by selling personalized messages attached on a snowflake and candy cane, called a snowflake gram.

“Lots of planning went into this event including the sticky notes, snowflake grams and planning and meetings. We wanted to create a fun way to make up for homecoming and give back to the community,” said Garcia.

To raise money for the event, Athens Drive received many generous donations from business sponsorships with CaryOrtho, Walton & Maready Orthodontics, Dr. Charles Harr with WakeMed, John Bell with FRGRisk, and Chris Cheshire with Chesko Sales. The gala also received funding from parents, the public and Athens staff.  

From Jan. 8 to Jan. 25, students were able to buy tickets for the gala at lunch for 20 dollars each. Over 130 tickets were sold to students and all proceeds from ticket sales went directly to St. Jude’s. With donations from sponsors, fundraising and ticket sales, the Winter Charity Gala raised 4600 dollars, which was just short of their goal of 5000 dollars.

“The biggest expectation was to be able to raise a sizeable enough donation to really make an impact for St. Jude’s. The goal was to raise 5000 dollars, which we [were]  just shy of. Other than that, it was just hoping that students would get on board and support the event so that we could make it an annual one,” said Worrell. “Next year, we’d like to open up the choosing of the charity to the student body, maybe have everyone put in their top two charities and then majority vote on like the top five to see which one will be supported for that year’s event. That way, the students feel that they have a voice in who the recipient is.”

The day of the event, Jan. 26, Bell, Garcia, health science teachers, parents and several students all came out to Chatham Station hours in advance to help set up. Tables, chairs and snacks were all set up and several decorations and lights were hung up throughout the venue.

“The venue was very spacious, and the lights draped over were extremely pretty. It was definitely a better decision than the gym we have here,” said Lizzie Edwards, sophomore.

The event was a success with several groups of students arriving between 7-10 p.m. A volunteer DJ was also present, continuously playing music and taking requests from students throughout the night. Dozens of students banded together to dance in unison to songs such as “Crank that (Soulja Boy)” and “Cotton Eye Joe.”

“I, personally, was very happy with the results and couldn’t have been more proud of Emily and Lauren. They put together a plan and a vision, surrounded themselves with reliable students to assist and participate in the planning and it showed in the quality and success of the event. I was also very proud of our student body in how many of them came out and supported the cause. Everyone looked great and looked like they had an awesome time,” said Worrell.

Bell and Lauren appeared on WRAL earlier Jan. 26, to talk about the event and were satisfied with the results of the dance. They hope to be renewed for the 2nd annual Winter Charity Gala and to have more student representatives on the planning committee next year.

“I just want the students to know that this event is for everyone,” said Worrell. “To me, it’s a great excuse to get dressed up, go hang with your friends and support an amazing cause. To me, that’s a win-win.”