Fundraising Gala Brings in Record-breaking $115,000-plus for JESS

Governor John deJongh Jr. with JESS gala committee member Lynese Shomo at the JESS Fund Raising Gala at Caneel Bay Resort.

The St. John community showed an outpouring of love and support for Julius E. Sprauve School at the school’s 10th annual fundraising gala at the Caneel Bay Resort on Saturday, January 13, where more than $115,000 was raised, breaking all previous fundraising records.


Mahlon “Koko” Pickering of Koko and the Sunshine Band.

Hundreds of JESS supporters came out dressed to the nines to enjoy the gourmet dinner, live and silent auctions and music by Koko and the Sunshine Band.

“So far, we’re up to $115,000 and counting,” said JESS Principal Mario Francis on Wednesday morning, January 17. “Checks are still coming in. We’ve broken all previous records.”

DeJongh Brings in Highest Bid
Gov. John deJongh Jr. and his wife, Cecile, not only attended dinner — he brought in the highest bid.

Dinner for 10 at Caneel with the governor and Caneel Bay Resort Managing Director Rik Blyth went for $8,000.
“The governor didn’t know about that dinner,” said Blyth. “It came up as a spur of the moment thing, and he said ‘absolutely, I’d love to do it.’”

DeJongh also supported the school by placing a winning bid of $2,015 for a portrait by Livy Hitchcock of Julius E. Sprauve himself,  and then donating it to JESS.

“He purchased it with his own funds, and it was a gift specifically to the school from his family,” said Francis. “We’re going to display it, as soon as we get a new school, in the library.”

Gala Organized by JESS
This was the first year the gala was organized by the school itself. In the past, the event was put on by a committee.

“I think the school did a great job of planning it,” said Blyth. “The administration and Mario Francis and volunteers all took over planning this year, and I thought it went very well. We had more people than we expected, and it all ended up turning out great.”
Francis is grateful for his staff and the support of the community, he explained.

“I want to thank the entire community for their overwhelming support,” said Francis. “I want to thank my staff here at Sprauve School and the parents for being there and assisting in making it better for our children.”

Francis is also pleased with the cooperation of Caneel Bay Resort, he explained.

“I am pleased with the level of support that I received from the community and Rik Blyth particularly,” said Francis. “Halo to him for having faith in us and supporting us and just being there. He was awesome.”

Blyth enjoys helping to support JESS, he explained.

“As far as I know, it’s the only true fundraiser for a public school,” said Blyth. “It’s obvious that the need is there. Being tucked away on St. John, Sprauve School gets left behind, so for us to be able to jump in there and provide them with some of the supplies they may not otherwise have is great.”

“St. John deserves the same as everywhere else,” Blyth added.


Senator-at-Large Carmen Wesselhoft

Summer School, Whiteboards
The funds raised will be used for several different things at the school, according to Francis.

“It’s going to pay for our school psychologist, summer school for elementary children and pre-test booklets that we order for our standardized tests,” Francis said.

The majority of the funds raised will be used for new electronic whiteboards, which expand learning possibilities for students, explained Francis.

“The electronic whiteboards are like chalkless chalkboards that are connected to the internet, and teachers do their lessons on laptops, which they can project onto the board,” he said. “They can bring in all sorts of resources from textbook companies and from other search engines to supplement the lessons they are doing. They can bring in live and still photos right onto the chalkboard at the press of a button.”

The students are thriving with the two electronic whiteboards the school currently has, Francis explained.

“Currently, we have two of them that the district gave us,” he said. “The kids are doing remarkably well with them. We should have the rest of those boards in place by March.”