Mason Schools Foundation host small town hoedown gala for education grants

Alexandra Lisa | Staff Writer

Mason Schools Foundation’s Annual Gala allowed staff, alumni, and members of the community to throw down at a hoedown.

The Annual Gala, the Foundation’s second biggest fundraiser, is given a theme to help the community get into a celebratory spirit; over 100 people showed up to the Great Wolf Lodge on September 9 clad in cowboy boots and plaid flannels. As the foundation’s “adults only” fundraiser, the event offered several opportunities for food and beverages, participation in a silent auction, and photo booths including a live horse, all preceding a ceremony where members of the Mason Schools Foundation would present plans for the coming year.

Throughout the year, teachers and staff can nominate various grants to get supported, something Principal Eric Messer said he sees heavily impacting the school each year.

“I see it a lot because I apply for grants, teachers apply for grants, so I see the money directly impacting my school on a daily basis,” Messer said. “Like right now, we just put in a grant to buy the virtual reality cameras for the kids to use in school. We’ve used this grant to get the Chromebooks before, we’ve brought in assemblies because of what the money allows us to do, this ends up doing a lot.”

Mindy Patton, President of the foundation, said the entire program was originally started to get additional funding for the school district so new advancements could be made.

“When we got started in 2008, it was kind of a way to introduce the community to the idea of a foundation,” Patton said. “Our school system had been growing very quickly, and as we looked at other school systems that were doing very well and looked at what they had that Mason didn’t have, it didn’t have a non-profit organization devoted to raising funds and giving grants. So, that’s what we started.”

The event did not originally have a theme assigned to it, attendees just dressed formal; Messer said he felt the themes helped to add to the event as a whole in several ways.

“I think a casual theme helps people open up, and I think it’ll just bring more people in general,” Messer said. “Some people don’t want to get a tuxedo or dress up, but if it’s a fun theme, and a cost-effective theme, it makes it more fun. Then you can relax and come here to see people as people instead of coworkers — because teachers are still real people, you know. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to drive that point home like this one.”

Third grade science teacher Kelly Gholz said the event helped to get some staff members invested in the Mason Schools Foundation.

“I always knew they were there, but it wasn’t until after I came to this event a few years ago that I saw exactly how it was supporting the district, and even my life as a teacher,” Gholz said.

Patton said that was the hope of the foundation events: to get the community more invested in what it was doing.

“I think it helps bring the community together,” Patton said. “I think it helps to remind them of what the schools need, and then it give them an opportunity to give to programs that are above and beyond what the school can do on this own, because it honestly is powerless without people’s support.”

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Photos by Alexandra Lisa.