The Festival of Giving couldn’t be stopped by the pandemic and neither could the partygoers’ generosity.
The annual fundraiser for the Children’s Treatment Centre Foundation of Chatham-Kent collected more than $175,000 Saturday night despite being held virtually for the first time because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Doing $175,000 is absolutely incredible, especially during these times,” foundation president Mike Genge said.
The latest net total is $177,500 after tickets, sponsorships, and the live and silent auctions were added up.
The gala event – the centre’s biggest fundraiser – annually attracts more than 1,000 guests, many in themed costumes, and brings in approximately $225,000 to $275,000.
This year, all 700 tickets were sold for $175 apiece, but merrymakers stayed home to watch the festival online.
Each person received a party bag that included gift vouchers for food and drinks, a $100 tax receipt and a chance to win a 2020 Mazda3 GX1 sedan from Chatham Mazda. It was won by Dave Matteis.
“We had lots of people still interested in tickets the week before even though we were sold out,” said Lisa Caron, the centre’s fund development officer. “It was amazing. The interest was still really high in the community.”
The online show included video greetings from more than a dozen celebrities, including David Hasselhoff, Tom Arnold, Gary Busey and Carole Baskin, as well as recorded performances by local band Face 4 Radio.
“We’re just happy to have a great event that the community could get behind,” Caron said. “Even though it went virtually – it was something new and different for us – we felt it went very successfully.”
Co-chairpersons Chris McLeod and Tim Regan donned tuxedoes as hosts at the Chatham Armoury. Greg Hetherington served as auctioneer.
Matt Tape and Adam Snow – “They’re magicians behind the curtain,” Caron said – made sure all ran smoothly online as the festival streamed live on Facebook, Youtube and its own website.
Roughly 20 volunteers answered phones during the live auction.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to pull it off,” Caron said.
To add to the party flavour, pizza-and-wings giveaways were held every 30 minutes. The food was immediately delivered to the winners’ homes.
The festival was more important than usual this year because the centre’s two other major fundraisers – the Festival of Golf tournament and the Over the Edge rappelling event – were cancelled because of the pandemic.
As well as the festival went, organizers still hope to host a more traditional gala in 2021.
“If we can get back to some sort of in-person event next year, that would be great,” Caron said.