$20,000 In 20 Minutes! - Sparkling Gala at Culver Studios
May 11, 2017
It was a true cliffhanger at Culver Studios: rain and cold threatened to doom a spectacular effort of verve by CCEF, Culver City's non-profit dedicated to helping students in Culver City. Could the lawn party, held where the grounds survived making "Gone With The Wind," still happen? Would anyone show? Would a year's worth of planning be a washout? "I changed the whole event within 24 hours," Leslie Adler confessed. "Friday morning, we saw the weather and reformatted completely. It's not just a fundraiser; we're also honoring people," said Adler, CCEF's Executive Director. "I knew the cost of the tents would take away from the money we'd raise. I also knew if I didn't get the tents, rain would ruin it. If I got the tents, what if it didn't rain?" Decisions, decisions. The tents cost about $5,000. What would you do? Adler was like Wonder Woman. She got the tents, making it comfortable and warm for around 500 people. She saved the night. "The best event in the community," was how people described it. I'll say. This audience loves schools, students, and teachers. Big smiles showed on faces as everyone screamed and clapped for teachers and volunteers getting awards. They knew something: *fun* was coming! Fun's in the eye of the beholder. Would you have fun eating unlimited foodie delights, playing with makeup and photos, having your numbers read, popping balloons, and dancing the night away? Or would you define "fun" as the pleasure of seeing a lot of money channeled into Culver City's schools? Technology ruled the night. It was spectacular seeing money raised in seconds - by smartphones. Mike Cohen, "Mr. Culver City," hilariously urged people to punch a sequence of numbers into phones. The big screen behind him went "Goal: $10,000. Raised: ____" as he cajoled people to donate. Within seconds, the screen showed texts from the audience. "$100 - Please, honey, would you pick up some lettuce?
"$20 'Where's the bar? one said. "$102 Steve Levin. $200 and $50 donations bounced on the screen. The "Raised" figure jumped from $9,196 to $15,571 in minutes. "$1 but that's all I could afford. "$100 from the Zeidmans, but only if you hurry this up. "If you'd donate $10,000 we would hurry this up," said Mr. Culver City. "$102 from Darth Vader."Michael Hackman will donate enough to get it to $20,000!" What does Culver City USD get? The big push now is STEAM, adding the arts to science, tech, engineering and math learning. 6,757+: that's how many students were in Culver City schools in 2014. Did you know creative industries make up over 14% of total employment in Culver City, nearly double employment in the LA region? (Creative Economy Report of CulverCity). Increasing investment in STEAM education results in students who "take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process"(Education Closet). It means mobile devices and sometimes single devices for each student; it means robotics programs and innovation. * * * The gala's agenda: raise money, give awards, make teachers and volunteers feel honored, make it fun. Check, check, check. "There's nothing more important than investing in our children's education," said Culver Studios' Michael Hackman. He introduced Michael Goldfarb, who added, "I'd like to make an extra donation of $5,000. We're honored to be here." Giulana Salgado, a ninth grade high school student, told how Culver City's music program helped win a place at Interlochen's summer music program. "Culver City schools have given many students just like me a chance to participate; otherwise it wouldn't be possible," she said. Joshua Arnold, CCUSD Superintendent, said he was, "Oh so proud! Culver City provides the highest concentration of arts programs in LA, more than any other school system.
"We're opening up an architecture pathway K6-12, that's what CCEF does," he added, "to provide world class experiences for children who go to our schools." Janice Pober, Sony Pictures Entertainment, gave the Teacher of The Year award to Amelia Harr of Culver City Middle School, describing a classroom scene with lines of parents and students waiting 15 minutes or more just to have a word with Ms. Harr. "I'd never seen this before," she said. Ms. Harr, accepting the award, said, "This district is truly magical. I am humbled." Jane Harada won the 2017 Shining Star Award for making a difference in Culver City. Bessy Reyna won the Classified Employee of the Year Award. Janet Chabola of the Rotary Club praised Bessy: "It's not the way she serves breakfast or lunch; What Miss Bessy brings can't be explained with words. She knows who comes to school fed and who hasn't eaten since lunch the day before." * * * THE FUN AND CREATIVITY: The whole event was creative. From the jazzy start over cocktails (CCHS Jazz Ensemble) to the live murals being painted by students (Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, Culver City High School), then auctioned. From the Silent Auction using smartphone bidding, to the Wine Cooler Raffle. Fun was getting dolled up with makeup; taking photos with boxes of funny props; getting your numbers done by a numerologist; popping prize balloons. Fun was gastronomic, too, from 22 gourmet restaurants who made you feel it was their pleasure to give you just delicious food surprises. "The tents took away from our profits," says Leslie Adler. "They weren't in our budget. So if anyone would like to help pay for the tents, and fund arts in Culver City schools, it's easy: go to ccef4schools.org/giving/online-donations/ "We felt such pride tonight," Carmela Raack and Lyn Caron, from Rotary, enthused. "We were astonished at raising so much money on our phones; we've never seen anything like that. The energy was incredible." "A fabulous success" summed up School Board member Kathy Paspalis. ______________________________________________ Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything. You can write to her at: email@example.com