Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Planning for the F.C. Education Foundation Gala

Spring is nearly at our doorstep which means our community’s non-profit organizations are busy planning their gala fundraising events. Among them is the Falls Church Education Foundation’s 8th Annual Gala which will be on Saturday, May 12 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Located across from the White House in the Chamber’s spectacular Hall of Flags, this year’s Gala will surely be a special evening for our public school supporters. The Gala is open to the public and everyone is welcomed to attend.

While the Gala is still many months away, a lot of preparation goes into the planning of this event by our talented Foundation volunteers and staff. Plans for the evening include a cocktail reception, silent and live auctions and seated dinner. This year’s effort is lead by Gabi Sandoz, a Falls Church Education Foundation board member and parent of a 9th grader at George Mason High School. Under her energetic leadership, corporate sponsors are signing up to underwrite event expenses, auction items are donated and collected, mailings are prepared, student performers are rehearsing and tickets are selling! Special thanks to our indispensible Gala Host Committee who will make this evening possible: Scott and Michelle Whitaker (Honorary Gala Chairs), Ari Autor, Jacqueline Bruner, Manuela Costecu, Mikki Ekfelt, Sally Ekfelt, Martha Mothershead, Lorraine O’Rourke, Nancy Shaffer, Kieran Sharpe, Jim Valentino and Linda Valentino.

Proceeds from the Gala benefit the Foundation’s programs and operations that provide supplemental support to the Falls Church City Public Schools. The Foundation functions as an “academic booster” to raise, manage and distribute funds to enhance and enrich the education of our students.

Examples of ongoing programs that are funded by the Foundation include grants to teachers in each of our schools, new technologies that support student learning such as the purchase of document cameras (ELMOs), SMART Boards, Kindles and digital cameras, Challenge Day, an anti-bullying program partially funded by the editor of this newspaper, and the Wilden Program for 4th-7th graders who are academically at-risk. In 2011, the Foundation distributed $163,000 to students and teachers for these activities and many others. For a complete listing of Foundation-funded projects, please visit the Foundation’s website at www.fcedf.org and go to What We Do.

The Foundation functions as an ‘academic booster’ to raise, manage and distribute funds to enhance and enrich the education of our students.

Planning for the Gala also provides an opportunity for school leaders to share unmet needs in their classrooms and buildings. Last year our college counseling department identified a new program, the Pathways to the Baccalaureate program, which they wanted our students to have access to. With the help of donations received at the Foundation Gala, George Mason High School implemented this program this school year for 30-50 junior and senior year students to facilitate the successful transition, retention, graduation and transfer of participating students from high school, through NOVA and on to a university of the student’s choice.

This year’s Host Committee looks forward to partnering with the school community to fundraise for another worthwhile project in our schools. We welcome input from the entire community to identify some of these needs. Please look for future correspondence from the Foundation or go to the Foundation’s website for further information about these initiatives.

Each of our 300 donors who contributed to initiatives like the ones mentioned above can be proud that their donation has made a difference in the lives of our students. And each one of our 700 donors who has contributed to the Legacy Endowment Fund through the annual “Dollar-A-Day” campaign can know that their gift is being wisely invested with others to insure that these activities will be available for future FCCPS students and teachers. In the precious words of one of our students who received an iPad at the completion of the vigorous Wilden After School program, “I just can’t imagine me getting something like this from a program that doesn’t even know who I am, what I look like, and what my personality is like…I have been doing better in my classes just because of you (the Foundation) which has made my life meaningful.”

For more information about tickets and sponsorships as well as donating an auction item to the 8th Annual Falls Church Education Foundation Gala please go to www.fcedf.org and click on Activities. Tickets are $125 per person and sponsorships range from $125 to $10,000. Thank you for your ongoing support of excellence in education in The Little City!


Donna Englander is the Executive Directory of the Falls Church Education Foundation.