Foothills foundation bets on its casino fund raiser - Tucson Local Media: Import

Foothills foundation bets on its casino fund raiser

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Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2005 12:00 am

Jan. 26, 2005 - When it comes to parties, this foundation has it all figured out.

The Catalina Foothills School District Foundation will put on more than a dozen benefit parties this year, but none of them willl top the sixth annual Love Our Schools winter fund raiser.

Last year, this evening of cocktails, music, auction, dinner, champagne raffle and dancing brought in close to $64,000 - and that was before the advent of the gambling-for-prizes tables that will be introduced this year.

With a cap of 300 seats, the event is the biggest single-evening fund raiser of the year for the foundation, which donated some $310,000 back to the school district in 2004.

With its location at Skyline Country Club and the $100 tickets - plus the expectation of gambling and silent auction bidding - it is not a cheap event, said Linda Denbrock, a foundation member. But she said the event indicates to donors the level of commitment the Catalina Foothills School District Foundation has to students.

"The quality of the event is going to definitely reflect in what people invest," Denbrock said. "I think that the quality, for example, of the silent auction items that the ladies have been able to garner for the last two or three years, not only has driven up the number of people that will continue to come back but also the expectations of what the event's going to do."

What the event does is bring in lots of money. From the minute attendees enter the doors at 6 p.m., they are surrounded by the reminders of the cause they are supporting - including the Catalina Foothills High School Jazz Ensemble, which will play during dinner - as well as ways to contribute to that cause.

"When you're looking at getting parents involved, we really try to incorporate the kids, our local talent," said Love Our Schools co-chair Liz Peckham. "It's really important because the first things to go are art and music and P.E. Those are the first things to drop out of your budget because those aren't the necessary priorities."

Parents understand the need to fund these and other programs in the district, both Peckham and Denbrock agreed, and getting them to contribute at an event such as Love Our Schools is not too difficult.

"District 16 has probably more educated parents, more business savvy, so the lives and the education of the children are extremely important," Peckham said. "For them to stay in public schools, they know they need to participate in the effort."

This is especially true during the silent auction portion of the evening, she explained.

Peckham said attendees not only are eager to bid on items, but others in the room will offer matching funds.

"I think when you're in that moment and you're in front of your peers, you all want to do the right thing and get the vision of what we're trying to do," Denbrock continued.

She said the event is exclusively filled with parents who have their children's best educational interests at heart.

But Love Our Schools is not the only way the foundation aims to raise money.

A series of smaller fund raisers throughout the year brings in other funds, as does a $1 per day drive. Denbrock explained the foundation is asking that everyone in the Catalina Foothills School District donate $1 per school day to the foundation - or $179 per year - per child to the foundation.

With that kind of money, the foundation could fulfill its goal of two $1 million permanent endowments, one for educational excellence and another for literacy and fine arts.

The interest from those two endowments goes into the annual Supporting Outstanding Schools Fund, which pays for teachers, programs, smaller class sizes and maintaining a "depth and breadth of programs," including art, music, P.E. and honors course offerings from kindergarten through 12th grade.

While the foundation still is far shy of those goals - with $25,000 in the educational excellence fund and $70,000 in the literacy and fine arts fund - both Denbrock and Peckham say the goals are as important to parents as they are to the foundation.

"That's why the parents have this urge to maintain it. We have a very distinguished record in this state," Denbrock said.

All the same, the district does have some challenges.

She said those challenges include living in Arizona, a state with one of the lowest per-student funding ratios in the nation, and being at the lower end of state funding.

"We are not able to apply for certain funds," she continued. "We just don't qualify with the socioeconomic level and student quality that we have here in the district."

Increasing community awareness about that cause is crucial.

" Our goal is this year is to really raise awareness of the foundation beyond the scope of the people that already know about it," Denbrock said. "It really takes the whole community to participate to make our goals."

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