Immaculate Conception Catholic School hosted their eighth annual Queen of May dinner and auction gala on May 5.
Held on the first Friday of May, volunteers and school staff organize a festive night to bring community members together to benefit the students at Immaculate Conception Catholic School. This year’s event proved to be successful with nearly 200 guests in attendance and many silent and live auction items sold. The Queen of May dinner also features a Fund-A-Need fundraiser, where guests have the opportunity to donate to a special project at the school.
This year, the donations will assist technology-related needs for the Blended Learning model. The Blended Learning model provides a “just-right level” of learning for every student. It allows students to work at their own pace through online adaptive learning technology on computers and iPads. The program has been beneficial for both the students and staff at ICCS. This technology helps to actively engage students at an individual level, while teachers are able to easily track progress and academic goals for each child.
Immaculate Conception Catholic School Principal Jane Bona said the Queen of May gala is the largest fundraiser of the year.
“This is such a great way for us to get toward the end of the school year,” Bona shared.
She added that with the exception of staff that work on this event throughout the year, everyone helping out are volunteers. Bona said the event had about 50 volunteers, from kitchen staff and students to servers and bartenders.
“That’s the whole spirit of Immaculate Conception,” Bona said. “I’m so grateful for all the people who are here and are excited to be a part of the evening.”
Volunteer bartender Al Haeg said he grew up in the Immaculate Conception parish. Haeg and his wife, who also volunteered at the gala, are very active and involved with the church. His granddaughter is also currently attending preschool at ICCS.
“The whole event is pretty frenetic but there is so much energy here,” Haeg said. “We’re happy to be here and support things here. We like to see this parish continue to flourish so I want to do my part, along with everybody else, to make sure that happens.”
Local businesses and parishioners donated many silent and live auction items for the event. The gala is known for tailoring its items to its attendees, making the auctions very successful. Notably, many of the live auction items are experience-based, including a Northeast bar tour, concerts and even Super Bowl tickets.
“We try to find things that are unique to draw people in,” Bona said. One item up for auction was a “murder mystery dinner party” event personally held by the Bonas.
Kurt Johnson of Kurt Johnson Auctioneering has been an auctioneer at the gala since its beginning eight years ago.
“When we began, the school was smaller and the event was smaller,” Johnson said. “But through the dedication of volunteers, staff members, the Bonas and friends and family, they have taken this to a new level each time. We consistently sell out now.”
Johnson added that the gala is more than just a fundraiser, but also a community builder.
“There’s many things that go beyond just the money we make here. There is friend building, relationship building, that’s what we really see at these events,” Johnson said. “Many of the people giving tonight may never know the kids who they are helping, and many families who are getting that help may never be here, but that’s the beauty of something like this; it’s a true community event.”
The gala is also an opportunity for students to earn service hours. A total of 13 students volunteered at the event, where they greeted and assisted guests to their tables. The students also provided the entertainment at the event by performing songs.
“It’s always really heartwarming for the guests to see the kids performing,” Bona said. “We really love to have the children present because that’s what the event is all about. We’re raising funds for our school’s programs. It all benefits the kids.”
This year’s gala was able to raise about $55,000 for the school. As a church and school that has been part of the Columbia Heights community for generations, Bona said she is appreciative of the continuous love and support. The school has also continued to grow, nearly doubling its enrollment over the last six years.
“We see Immaculate Conception as being a ‘beacon in the community,’” She said. “It’s these kind of events that give us a sense of accomplishment and a sense that people love Immaculate Conception church and school.”
Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]