Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Committee puts fresh twist on annual gala

Judi Threlfall and Ann Burke are serving as co-chairs of the LEEF Gala committee this year. Both have worked on the gala before but this is the first time they will be in charge of the fundraising festivities. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW The LEEF Gala may be the biggest event the Longmeadow school district sees every year. Why is it bigger than homecoming or the prom? Because it shows the generosity of the residents of Longmeadow and it raises the funds to supply teachers with grants for innovative and creative educational ventures.

This year's co-chairs have decided to make the 2007 LEEF Gala especially memorable.

LEEF (the Longmeadow Educational Excellence Foundation) has held its gala for the past few years at Chez Josef in Agawam but this year, gala co-chairs Ann Burke and Judi Threlfall decided to move it closer to home and host it at the Longmeadow Country Club on Shaker Road. It will take place Nov. 17 starting at 6:30 p.m.

The new gala committee and the change in location aren't the only changes for this year's major fundraiser.

"It will be a fun, more casual, lively evening," Burke said. "When an event's around for five or six years, you have to change it up every now and then. We've never done it like this before."

Rather than a sit down dinner, this year's LEEF Gala will be more like a cocktail party. Billed as "an evening of fun food, cocktails and bids for kids," food will be available at a variety of stations, from a raw bar to a carving station to Thai food to a chocolate fountain.

Burke was most excited about the mashed potato bar, however.

"The potatoes will have a variety of toppings and fixings and will be served in martini glasses," she explained.

Complimentary signature martinis, or LEEFtinis, will be provided by V-One Vodka. Burke said the drinks will be available in pomegranate and lemon flavors.

The live and silent auctions taking place during the gala are what bring in the most money, according to Burke. The assortment of donated items is vast autographed sports memorabilia, a romantic week in Paris for two, four box seats at Fenway Park for any home game, American Idol Summer Tour tickets, exclusive tickets to a Sheryl Crow concert, a weekend in Chatham and a trip to Sonoma Mission Inn for wine tasting and tour of wine country in California.

There will also be a "game of chance" where curious bidders can try to win mystery prizes.

Burke said she anticipates more than 350 items to be donated before the gala.

"This is the first year we've had an online auction as well," Threlfall stated. "It opens Nov. 1 and will close Nov. 16 at midnight." The online auction allows for those interested to bid on items online and look for items they wish to bid on in person at the gala.

Threlfall said LEEF is expecting approximately 400 people to attend the gala.

Over 100 volunteers offered their services to bring the LEEF Gala, now in its sixth year, to fruition. Burke said the group first has an organizational meeting in the spring, with late summer the "real start up."

She added that donations for the auction are accepted year-round.

"Longmeadow is pretty proud of its school system," Burke said.

"Everyone comes together to achieve the same goal," Threlfall added. "This is really a community affair."

The 2006 LEEF Gala raised $50,000 for grants and the foundation's endowment and this year the goal is even higher.

"We have a goal of $60,000 this year," Threlfall said. The ultimate goal of fundraising efforts is to place $1 million in the endowment. So far, LEEF has awarded $472,000 in grants.

"The gala is a celebration of our accomplishments to date plus what we hope to achieve," LEEF board member Joe Aberdale said.

Tickets to the gala are $65 each and can be purchased online at LEEF's Web site, There is also a link to the online auction on the home page.

Tickets are also available at Longmeadow Educational Excellence Foundation, P.O. Box 60782, Longmeadow, MA 01116. The cut-off date for tickets is Nov. 16 and tickets will not be available at the door.