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Co-chairs share plans for 2010 LEEF Gala

Date: 10/12/2010

Oct. 11, 2010

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

LONGMEADOW -- The Longmeadow Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF) is gearing up to celebrate its 10th anniversary with new co-chairs for its annual Gala, a new location for the event and a new twist that promises to add a bit more excitement to the organization's major fundraiser.

"We have three new enthusiastic, very energetic co-chairs for our ninth annual Gala and we're delighted to have them," LEEF Publicity and Media Chairman Joe Aberdale said as he introduced Amy Wiatrowski, Carolyn Hefner and Stephanie Foster at a recent press conference announcing plans for the fundraiser.

The 9th annual LEEF Gala will take place on Nov. 20 from 6:30 to 11 p.m. at the Colony Club, located in Tower Square in downtown Springfield.

Tickets are $65 per person if purchased before Nov. 5 and $70 after that date and can be purchased from the LEEF Web site,, or from any board member. There will be a cash bar.

"The Colony Club is the premier social and dining club in Western Massachusetts," Foster said. "They're very excited to be working with LEEF this year."

Free, lighted parking in the Tower Square garage is just one of the advantages Foster cited for the new location. Other advantages include "an elegant, yet warm atmosphere," a menu that will include "substantial passed hors d'ouevres and possibly a carving station," plus, she said, plenty of room for the Gala's signature silent and live auctions, raffle and special entertainment for the evening.

Hefner said the committee has chosen to add another element of chance to the evening by offering guests the opportunity to play blackjack, roulette or poker from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

"Each guest will get chips [for gaming] and can purchase more," Hefner said, adding that all winnings will be exchanged for raffle tickets, giving those guests who choose to play additional opportunities to take a chance on their favorite items.

As always, students from Longmeadow High School will provide the Gala's music.

The trio of co-chairs was also very excited about this year's premier raffle item.

"Robert Charles Photography is providing a 16- by-24-inch framed or matted wall poster and 48 holiday cards," Hefner said. The winner will have his or her choice of a studio or location setting for the portrait. The value of the package is $1,600.

Advance tickets for the Robert Charles session raffle are $10 each. Tickets will also be available at the Gala.

As for the auction, Hefner said the committee is working on several things, including a "date night" package, hopefully offering 12 dates over the course of a year.

"This will be a good way for couples or a lucky husband to win big," Hefner commented.

Four tickets to a practice round at the Master's golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, a week on Hutchinson's Island in Florida during the winter school break, Red Sox and Yankees tickets and other sports related goods are also part of the special selections Gala-goers can bid on.

Additional auction items include gift certificates, bottles of wine, sports items and more. according to Hefner.

Foster said two area businesses have already stepped up to act as sponsors for the event, St. Germain Investments at the platinum level and Bay Path College at the silver level, but that the Gala is still seeking more support from the community.

She said, for example, a $750 bronze sponsorship supports one of the gaming tables and garners the business or individual a half-page ad in the Gala's program.

The donations committee is also still seeking items for the live and silent auction. Interested individuals and businesses should e-mail or

Aberdale said the Gala has no fundraising goal for this year's event, though the 2009 Gala brought in $80,000 to support LEEF's grant programs for the schools and teachers.

"We're looking for a large turnout to support the teachers and kits at what we always get feedback will be "a great party [with] great prizes,'" he said.

According LEEF's mission statement, its purpose is to "create and maintain a fund that provides grants for innovative education and enrichment programs beyond the tax-supported budget for the benefit of Longmeadow public school students." This is done by annually funding "teacher-initiated grants" for programs at all levels of education throughout the school system.

"These are creative, innovative programs," Aberdale added.

Aberdale said LEEF now has an endowment of $506,000 "with a goal to reach $1 million" to support Longmeadow education excellence.

"And this has all been accomplished in 10 years," he said.

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