Editor’s note: This article was published in the April 2023 issue of the North Star Catholic.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Lumen Christi Catholic High School saw an influx of donations that brought some faculty members to tears during its annual fundraising gala on Feb. 11.
This year, the 28th Annual Fundraising Gala, themed “Denim & Diamonds,” closed out with a net amount of about $221,000 in donations, sponsorships, and ticket sales from parents, alumni, donors, and local businesses that support the school.
The Gala was held in person for the first time in two years. Lumen officials made the past couple of galas virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thank you for putting together such a great event,” said Stephen Settle, who attended this year’s event at the high school. “It was a heartwarming and fulfilling experience, so thank you for your hard work to make that happen for them (students).”
Out of the net total funds gained, people donated $202,165 to Lumen through the annual fundraiser. A highlight of the funds donated, Lumen’s “Fund-a-Future” goal, which is designed to fund student scholarships, was surpassed by more than $30,000, receiving a total of $80,165.
Lumen was gifted $44,000 through the Gala’s live auction, and then an additional $51,000 from the silent online auction. Guest also spent more than $27,000 in donations for games of chance offered at the Gala.
“Sponsorships and other donations rounded out the giving,” said Anne Gore, the director of advancement at Lumen.
The remaining Gala funds are additional income earned through sponsorships and ticket sales. The Gala received almost $50,000 in sponsorship and ticket sale income, but the net value was brought down to $17,835 after the school used those funds to pay event expenses.
Gore said the “vast majority of ‘Fund-a-Future’ donations” will help pay for scholarships offered to students; however, this year “some funds may be used to purchase lab tables for three classrooms.”
“While the school has one dedicated lab, our student population has nearly doubled in just four years — from 67 students in 2019-20 to a confirmed 131 for 2023-24,” Gore said. “In order to provide exceptional hands-on science learning, our teachers need to be able to safely conduct science experiments in their classrooms while the lab is occupied by other classes.”
Gore said Lumen anticipated many people attending the event. Thus, choosing the theme, “Denim & Diamonds,” was created to ensure people could dress up or down as much as they desire.
“Most people settled on a relaxed combination of the two, with many men passing on their thanks for not having to wear a tuxedo or even jacket and tie!” Gore said. “Our auctioneer went full on ‘Texas Tuxedo’ with denim jeans, shirt, and jacket (completely covered in rhinestones), along with his cowboy boots and a hat, which of course added to the fun and set the tone for the evening as he mingled with guests.”
The Gala’s giving frenzy began with “Texas Tuxedo” auctioneer Dan Newman, Lumen alumni and founder of Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals, kicking off the “Fund-a-Future” paddle raise by asking for $9,500 — the annual tuition costs for one student. To many faculty members’ surprise, Gore said, three paddles flew up into the air on that February evening.
“I was squeamish about starting there, certain that no one would give at that level. We‘d just have an awkward silence with people looking down at the ground or staring intently at their salads!” she said. “While serving as co-host on the stage alongside Dan, the only thing I can say is that I was literally stunned speechless — a rarity for me not to have something to say. Reflecting on the moment now, already a month old and it still brings tears to my eyes.”
The two co-hosts went on to see donors surpass Lumen’s initial goal of $50,000 for the paddle raise. Lumen raised $30,165 more than its paddle-raise goal, Gore said.
Guests enjoyed several games of chance throughout the Gala, including “Heads or Tails,” “1:100,” and “Glitz in a Glass.” The games carried an array of prizes ranging from champagne to diamond and gold jewelry to two Alaska Airlines tickets without blackout dates or restrictions.
Gore said the meals offered at the Gala were provided by Bridge Seafood Restaurant in Anchorage. Lumen has had a “longstanding relationship” with the company for events, according to Gore. Student volunteers dressed in school uniforms served as hosts/hostesses to guests.
“I typically attend at least two black tie charity events per year and usually donate to support the cancer community/oncology research field that I work in, but in all the events I’ve attended, I never felt such a personal connection in supporting actual kids in my community at your event,” Settle said about the event. “Of course, seeing the kids there whose futures might be directly impacted was inspiring.”
Following dinner was the “Dessert Dash;” Gore considers it the most popular event of the night. To win, guests donate a collective amount for their table; the table with the highest amount gets to send their “food dasher” to the dessert area first.
“This is always a fun and exciting portion of the night,” Gore said. “There‘s nothing like seeing adults jostling at the start, pretend swinging elbows to knock competitors out of the way as they eye the gorgeous … fill in the blank: chocolate cake, strawberry pie, a dozen cupcakes … at the table across the room!”
At the end of the night, Gore said the live auction concluded with 13 items sold at a total of $44,000.
“The lovely assortment of silent auction items, Facebook notices and bidding layout … superb!” said Joyce Durcanin-Robbins about the event. “Congratulations on a very professional job. Here’s to the hard work of the Gala Team for another tremendous event.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Anchorage also hosted its annual fundraising event earlier this school year in November of 2022. School officials were not available for comment before this issue was sent to print.
According to an event flyer posted on the school’s Facebook page, the 39th Annual St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School Auction, themed “Black & White Gala,” took place at the school’s Miki Gym on Nov. 11. Tables were being sold for amounts ranging between $650 to $1,000.