The Ronald McDonald House offers a place for families to stay, free of charge, while their children receive medical treatment in nearby hospitals. The one in Hershey is located across from Penn State Children’s Hospital, and it serves families from a surrounding 11-county area.
Susan Graham Consulting has been volunteering as a team at Ronald McDonald House for years, from cooking dinners for residents to helping with the annual Cupcake Challenge. We’re always looking for ways to help out, and we were excited when we saw the theme of their upcoming fund-raiser, Diamonds & Denim on April 25.
It’s a night out for women around the area to enjoy the sights at the Star Barn, sample some wine and delicious food, and get some fun swag, too.
We spoke with Amy Leonard, the RMH development director, to learn more about this event, how fundraising helps the RMH mission and what the logistics of putting on an event like this include.
SGC: How much are you hoping to raise through this event?
Amy Leonard: A gross of $90,000. We’re hoping to reach that through sponsorships, ticket sales and then on the night of the event we have a silent auction and a raffle. It’s a money-maker for us.
SGC: What does that pay for at RMH?
Leonard: It costs $100 to provide a family services for a night. So this allows us to serve 900 families with overnight stays. We have 35 rooms at our facility, so that’s a significant number.
SGC: This is the third year for the event. How did you come up with the idea for Diamonds & Denim?
Leonard: Three years ago, we were talking about how do we engage women in the community and get them to take that next step with us, whatever it is that looks like. At the same time, we were having the conversation that not all of our events were within reach of our volunteers pricewise. We were hearing our tickets to the gala were too expensive for them.
So we took those two concepts and merged them. The majority of our volunteers are women, 85 percent of them.
We wanted to build an event inclusive of our volunteers, and we wondered, could we build an event appealing to the general public of women, to get them involved with us that way. Out of that came the idea for a ladies’ night out.
SGC: The past two years you sold out, right?
Leonard: We sold out in two weeks the first year and then sold out in a week the next year. This year we’ve doubled our capacity, going from 300 to 600 tickets. We haven’t sold out yet, we’ll be constantly selling tickets between now and April 25, the day of the event.
How important are fundraising efforts like this to your mission?
Leonard: Local fundraising is pretty much all the fundraising we have. All the Ronald McDonald Houses across the nation operate independent of one another. We’re bound to an 11-county area, and we depend on support from the community. It’s important because our families aren’t in a position, in a lot of cases, to be able to support themselves at that time. Fundraising is a way to connect the community to our mission, so we can provide support to family members.
When do you start planning for this event? How long does it take?
Leonard: All events are labor-intensive. We usually start planning Diamonds and Denim, which happens in late April, by October of the year before. That gives us a seven-month lead time. It’s important to start in the fall so when sponsors are budgeting, they remember us in their budgets. The committee starts meeting in January, and they meet monthly leading up to the even.
A lot of administrative stuff happens in our office. Our committee members seek sponsors and auction items. We have volunteers for the day of the event for pickups and all kinds of other things that we have them do.
You can buy tickets for Diamonds & Denim online. Thanks to RMH for taking the time to talk to us about the event—Susan will be there, and we hope to see you, too!