By Justin Wilson – Communications Coordinator, Wood’s Homes
As a first time attendee at NEVER GIVE UP and a new employee of Wood’s Homes, I went into the evening of September 12 with little knowledge of past years or how the evening would play out. Throughout the week prior, I’d seen colleagues staying late and arriving early, schedules redesigned, and just how hard organizers were working to make the event a success. As Wood’s rookie communications co-ordinator and a volunteer at the Gala, I had the privilege of playing a small role in both the frantic week and the eventful evening.
Here are 10 things I learned at my first Gala.
1) Little Details = A Lot of Work
While some volunteers weren’t expected at the Hyatt Regency until 4:30 p.m., a number of staff arrived much earlier to begin setting up the raffle, silent auction, live auction displays and other Gala elements many might find interesting without fully appreciating the work it took to produce. I can’t help but wonder how many people actually thought about the process of getting a Harley Davidson Motorcycle up three floors in the Hyatt.
2) Sponsors are so much more
Without the support of all Gala sponsors, it wouldn’t be the premier event it is. As the Gala’s returning title sponsor, Safeway not only played a pivotal role in Wood’s Homes ability to hold the event, but also added new items to the live auction at the drop of a hat. Renée Hopfner of Safeway provided a heartfelt speech about the role Wood’s plays in the communities we serve and several touching points on what Wood’s has meant to families like hers.
Wood’s Homes thanks all our sponsors, including Safeway, Fort Calgary Resources Ltd., Foss Wealth Management – RBC Dominion Securities, Peter the Plantman, Surge Energy Inc., City Wide Towing & Recovery Service Ltd., TD Bank, Birchcliff Energy Ltd., Brownlee LLP, Canadian Oil Sands, Mainstreet Equity, and Moodys Gartner Tax Law.
3) The Live Auction was something to behold
As the silent auction ran from 6-10 p.m., attendees could view several screens featuring each item, who was bidding on what, and how high bids were rising. It was interesting to see people giving so generously, but when the live auction started, all attention fell on auctioneer John Copithorne who commanded the room and convinced bidders to raise their price time and time again. Simply put, with John’s charisma came higher bids. No wonder he’s one of Alberta’s most sought-after auctioneers.
4) Attendees want to give right from the get-go
As a volunteer at the registration desk it was my job to sign in guests and let them know where they’d be dining inside the Imperial Ballroom. That was pretty much it. Having this opportunity to speak with so many attendees as they arrived made me realize how eager they were to donate. Many would pull out identification and their credit card to provide bidding information as soon as I took their name, but before I told them their table number. They were more eager to begin bidding than find out where they’d be enjoying their multi-course meal.
5) Even in an economic crunch, people are more than willing to support those in need
I’ve mentioned how projector screens kept attendees apprised on silent auction bids and how John Copithorne drove bids up with his expert auctioneering, but it’s hard to state how much it means to Wood’s that people are willing to donate in the midst of a shaky economy.
6) Big personalities make a big difference
With Global Calgary’s Paul Dunphy as emcee of the event, Calgary Stampeders star running back Jon Cornish in attendance, and John Copithorne producing more laughs with every item up for auction, the mood was light even as we explored some of the real issues that Wood’s Homes clients face every day.
7) Sponsors aren’t the only ones who return each year
At times, it seemed like I was the only first time volunteer there. In the volunteer room, many had stories about last year and what stood out to them from past galas. That so many Wood’s volunteers come back year-after-year speaks volumes to the respect that event organizers show to those lending their time to make these fundraisers possible.
8) From an artist’s time; to a night of jazz; to a stay at a wilderness resort; the silent auction had something for everyone.
Being privy to the auction items beforehand, I already had an idea of their unique diversity. With that said, arriving at the Gala and seeing how each item was displayed, bid on and won by overjoyed gala-goers was great.
9) While a fundraiser at its core, the Gala is one great party
If you’re ever looking for a way to get a room dancing, enlist the help of the Dino Martinis. Once the live auction, raffle draws and closing remarks concluded, the band brought people to the dance floor with their take on an array of upbeat covers performed to perfection. I’m not a Taylor Swift fan, nor a dancer, but their rendition of Shake it Off had me re-evaluating those life choices.
10) What we do is truly important
From a video presentation featuring Wood’s clients, staff and Board members discussing what Wood’s means to them and how our organization has changed their lives for the better, to a heartfelt speech by a Wood’s Homes client on how we were there for his son in a time of great need, it was impossible to walk away from the Gala without feeling pride.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!
Wood’s Homes is a nationally accredited mental health centre – proudly helping communities for over 100 years. Learn more at woodshomes.ca.