Friends of the VINP President Joe Kessler, far right, addresses the crowd during the organization’s annual fundraising gala.
Guests at Janet and Martin Marshal’s Great Cruz Bay villa A la Mer on Saturday night, February 6, were certainly “Feelin’ Good While Doin’ Good,” — the theme of this year’s Friends of V.I. National Park gala.
The Marshals opened their exquisite home to about 150 people who came out to enjoy the sounds of Paradise People and the food of Mathayom, while raising about $25,000 for the non-profit organization.
The majority of the funds came through the sale of gala tickets, which were $200 each, and raffle tickets, which were $25 each or five for $100.
The funds will be used to support the group’s programs including the annual Earth Day fair, summer eco-camps and seminar series.
“Instead of the live auction, we did a raffle of more than 30 items and we gave people the chance to win their favorite item by placing the raffle ticket in a basket in front of the item,” said Noreen Cavanaugh, Friends of VINP development director.
“It worked beautifully,” she said.
At the conclusion of the raffle, the crowd got a surprise, Cavanaugh added.
“After we closed down the raffle, the Marshals donated a long weekend at their house so we did another raffle,” she said. “It really created a buzz and we sold 170 raffle tickets for that alone.”
In a new twist this year, Friends officials decided to forgo the usual live auction and instead hosted an online auction several months ago.
“I think everyone enjoyed the raffles and not sitting through the live auction,” said Cavanaugh. “It really was a beautiful night and everyone had a great time. The Marshals were there and they really enjoyed themselves.”
In addition to the Friends staff, there was a team of about 30 volunteers who helped ensure the event’s success.
“We had about 30 volunteers who helped out with registration, selling raffle tickets and there were volunteers from local restaurants who helped with serving and bartending,” Cavanaugh said. “We had docents from Annaberg who volunteered and a wonderful group who volunteer at the store who came out. It was a really nice mixture of volunteers.”
Cavanaugh has been organizing the event for months and was overjoyed that it went so well, she explained.
“We’ve been working on this literally for months so it was nice that it all went so well,” said Cavanaugh. “I felt like a hostess and I really enjoyed seeing everyone enjoy themselves. I kept saying, ‘I’m smiling because everyone else is.’”
The development director received endless help from the Friends’ Gala Committee consisting of Audrey Penn, Cid Hamling, Joy Stillman, Mary Bartolucci, Moriah Love, Debbie Hayes, John Fuller, Carl Pytlik, Teri Wine and Karen Vahling, she explained.
“I really could not have done this without the committee,” said Cavanaugh. “It was one of those things that there was just really good energy around this whole event.”
All that time planning the event truly showed off as the night was deemed a success by all, according to Cavanaugh.
“When the worse possible thing that could happen, doesn’t happen, you know that you planned well,” she said. “I would absolutely say that it was a smashing success, but it wasn’t my success. This was the success of my phenomenal committee members and the volunteers.”
Major sponsors of the event included Bellows and Diageo, S&P Fish and Merchant’s Market, Cavanaugh added.
“Our sponsors are a major reason why we raised so much money,” she said.
Not about to rest on their laurels, Friends officials are already looking ahead to next year.
“We’re already talking about next year’s gala and we’re thinking of where to have it,” said Cavanaugh. “If anyone knows of a great venue, call us.”
The Friends of the VINP graciously thank all sponsors and volunteers who helped make the event a success.
For more details, call Cavanaugh at the Friends of the VINP office at 779-4940.