Friday, July 7, 2017

First Annual Memory Masquerade

The past few months have been incredibly busy: taking care of my home and family, keeping up with my home sewing business, chauffeuring kids to various activities, taking care of Mom (with bathing and nurse visits and whatnot). To top it all off, I had the crazy idea of starting a non-profit foundation a couple of years ago and we decided it was time to put together our very first charity gala. We gave it the theme "Memory Masquerade" with the idea that it would be an elegant evening that would allow us to come together and honor the memory of our loved ones who have been affected with dementia. The masquerade took 7 months of planning and prepping-it almost felt like planning a wedding! We had to pick a venue, choose a caterer and a menu, find entertainment, work out decoration details, find sponsors and donations, make connections within the community, plan a program. It was a lot of work! Luckily, I had a committee of fantastic volunteers; I could not have done something like this on my own. I feel like a fire has finally been lit with the foundation. People are learning about who we are and people want to get involved. There have been many moments of discouragement along the road, times when I've questioned my sanity at the attempt to start this charity in the midst of my crazy life. But the past 6 months have brought about much growth and all of the efforts that we've put into this are finally beginning to pay off!

To start with, we have received our very first grant, through the County of Riverside, to help fund the event. It wasn't large (the largest grants they are giving out are $1,000, which is what we received), but it helped a lot and gave us (the committee) the confidence we needed to move forward. For the first time, we were able to secure sponsors for our event and we received some great donations for our silent auction! Some of the awesome things we received include a helicopter ride, lunch with the Mayor of Riverside, an autographed copy of Kimberly Williams-Paisley's book, professional photography packages...the list goes on! Best of all, we had support from friends, family, and others within the dementia community.

In the months before the event, I became very anxious and worried. What if, after all of this planning and prepping, nobody showed up? What if we only broke even with our overhead costs or worse, what if we ended up in the negative? Other (more experienced) members of my committee tried to reassure me that no matter what, it would be a success. They told me that if we got 40-50 people out to a first-time gala, it would be a success; if we broke even in our expenses or made just one or two thousand dollars, it would be a success. I told them I wanted to shoot higher: my goal was 100 people and $10,000. I saw some of my volunteers wince as I said it. They told me I should expect half of that. I started to second guess myself. I decided I better not set my hopes too high. If we could reach those numbers, I'd be thrilled; but if we only had 40 people show up, I knew I'd be really discouraged.

Fast forward past all of the tedious details leading up to the night of the gala. Nobody wants to read about all of the sweat and tears that went into it! Suffice it to say that it was a lot of hard work but I am proud to say that the evening was a big success. We ended up with 75 people on our guest list and we raised over $9,000!! (That does NOT count in the value of everything that was donated to us for the event!) Even though we didn't quite reach the goal I had set, it exceeded my realistic expectations of the evening. We had rotary club members and representatives from the city and the Mayor of Jurupa Valley (a long time friend of our family) came and emceed the event. One of the greatest things for me, on a personal level, was to have so many family members come out to support what we are doing. My dad and his sister and brother-in-law came, one of my mom's brothers (and his wife) came, my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and a couple of my husband's siblings came. My twin brother and his wife came in from Arizona. For most of these family members, it was their first time attending a foundation event. It meant so much to me to have them all there. I was so happy that they could see what it is that we are accomplishing with the foundation.

We also had a very touching tribute, honoring those who have been affected by dementia. It started with a slideshow of my mom and then transitioned into a slideshow of others who have been affected. My husband put hours into this slideshow and I must say, it was a masterpiece. I debated on sharing it online, but I've decided I am going to save it for another time. We also had a beautiful table decorated to honor those currently fighting/those who have lost their battle with dementia. We made keepsakes for the families to take home with them.

There were some things that I would do differently for next year, but all-in-all it was a very successful event. Our guests all seemed to enjoy themselves. We had a photo booth (with a photographer on spot) which really added a lot to the evening. The decorations turned out beautiful. I think everyone went away feeling that it was a lovely evening. As we were cleaning up, one of our volunteers (who has been to just about every charity event in the city) made the comment to me, "This is by far THEE best first time gala I have EVER been to." Needless to say, I was on cloud 9 for the next few days!!

It is hard to put into words what this foundation means to me. It is so much more than just raising money to help other people. Of course, that is why I started it; I wanted to help other people and build a community of support for those going through this horrible disease. But this is also a way for me to remember my mom, to keep her alive and a part of my life. When she is no longer here with us physically, this will be her legacy. Through this foundation, we are able to keep her memory alive and honor the life she led. We are able to give people that same opportunity-to honor and remember their loved ones. It is so easy to be overcome with grief when going through this journey, but this has truly helped me to work through that grief. It gives me a sense of purpose and the opportunity to "make lemonade out of the lemons". I am excited to see where this next year brings the foundation, and really looking forward to making the Memory Masquerade even bigger and better next year!

Parts of the event were videoed and will be featured in the documentary that is being filmed about our family journey with dementia (it's due to be completed by the end of this summer!) I will definitely share that documentary when it is finished. In the meantime, here are some fun photos of the evening!
Some set up and decoration pictures:
Some fun pictures with our backdrop:
With the Mayor, giving The DEANA Foundation two thumbs up!
So grateful for all of these amazing volunteers!
Welcoming guests to the Memory Masquerade.

2 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your success and thanks so much for your advocacy and all you do to raise awareness about the struggles of dementia and the pressing needs of family caregivers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed reading about your great event.

    ReplyDelete