On Friday, June 12, 2020, Riverview School held its 22nd annual “Village of Dreams” Gala. However, this year’s event was very different than any other Gala the School had ever held.
Instead of a beautifully decorated 80x190 sq. ft. tent, flower arrangements, live music, delicious food and 400 gussied-up guests; this year’s 2,664+ attendees tuned in to watch the Gala via YouTube from the comfort of their homes. And they sure showed up! Collectively they continued to extend their support of the School’s mission of providing a caring community for adolescents and young adults with complex language, learning and cognitive challenges, and came together to raise $860,000; resulting in a Riverview Gala fundraising record!
It took a lot of out of the box thinking and reimagining to make the event the incredible success that it was. Long before the pandemic was on anyone’s radar, Riverview contracted with audio visual company, Events United, located in Derry, NH to provide A/V services at the Gala. When COVID-19 prohibited an in-person event, the company was quick to adapt and suggested that Riverview use their “Studio Lab,” a virtual event space for the Gala. Riverview then secured long-standing Gala auctioneer, John Terrio as the host.
While many other schools and non-profit organizations scrambled to create virtual events and attempted to take the standard format of their in-person events and translate those events into virtual, Riverview chose not to use most of the typical programming formalities of an in-person Gala and transformed the event into a fast-paced, fun, interactive performance-based event that included the entire Riverview community in a way that had never been done before. Riverview recognized quickly that what the community wanted (and needed) was a “celebration” and a way to come together as a community, regardless of being physically separated.
One of the most creative ways that this was done was by incorporating celebrity video plugs for the event from Rosie O’Donnell, Carly Simon and Brian Williams, and pre-recorded celebrity performances aired during the live event by Rick Astley, Sting and John Legend!
The Gala included many silent auction items donated by generous individuals, sponsorships and a raffle. This year’s raffle attracted a lot of attention. A wonderful donor bought the school a 2020 Mini Cooper to raffle off! One thousand, $50 raffle tickets were sold and the lucky winner was drawn right on stage during the live event. When the winner ended up being a current Riverview family, the Almys', it was very exciting for all.
Another way that the School tied in components that were specific and meaningful to the community, was by having students Zoom in Live throughout the evening. The Gala centered the theme of the evening around well-recognized and beloved staff member, Music Director, Greg Simpson, who playfully interacted with the celebrity performances and performed a meaningful song at the end with students dancing and singing along.
According to Stewart Miller, Head of Riverview School, “We were able cast a much wider net to include alumni, families, and Riverview friends from all over the world who wouldn’t have been able to attend an in-person event. Including the students was a very special component. Seeing them having fun, dancing and singing along with the performances, reminded everyone of exactly why our mission is so important.”
If you are interested in volunteering or donating items or experiences for the 2021 Gala and auction, please contact Erin Soderstrom at 508-888-0489 x302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Missed it? You can still watch it HERE.
Thank you for making the event a success!