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Great Gateway Not-A-Gathering Raises more than $74k for Students and Teachers

Executive Director Sharon Olken singing karaoke after her $1,000 fundraising challenge was met

Longtime friends of Gateway may know that each March we celebrate the Great Gateway Gathering, an opportunity for staff and parents to toast to another great school year and our biggest family fundraiser of the year. As news of coronavirus-related school closures and the cancellation of nonessential community events became concrete, however, it became clear that the event could not go on as planned, jeopardizing tens of thousands of dollars in much needed funds for teachers and students. What to do?

The event’s intended theme – 70s disco – presented an opportunity for an alternative event in the form of a live streamed “telethon,” just like those popular in the heyday of 70s TV. In only one week, the entire Gateway community came together to put on a fundraising variety show, raising a total of $74,805 and meeting the goal of reaching “$70k in the 70s.”

Such generosity is doubly appreciated given that many interruptions to planned spring fundraising activities are anticipated through the rest of the school year. Some efforts – like the annual Tacolicious School Project that raises $6,000 each school year – have been outright canceled, and others are in flux. The “Virtual Disco Telethon” is one way GPS staff are finding creative ways to ensure that teachers and students can continue their work without missing a beat when school resumes. 

The event kicked off with Executive Director Sharon Olken and Director of Development and Outreach Chanda Lockhart serving as MCs, segueing into a competitive round of 70s Trivia Jeopardy with Trustee and Gateway parent Dan Carr serving as Alex Trebek for the evening while GPS Executive Assistant Danielle Ciccarelli, Trustee Sharon Gillenwater, and teacher Evan Bass (with some help from his daughter) vied for bragging rights. Gateway senior Jesse L. spoke about his time at Gateway and manned the mic for over an hour, before introducing GHS Principal Tony Rodgers and GMS Humanities Teacher Suzanne Herko for their karaoke performances, which raised hundreds of dollars each. Viewers were also treated to a vintage recipe demonstration by Senior Development Manager Marianne Fives and an encore karaoke performance from Ms. Olken after a spontaneous fundraising goal to get her to sing erupted in the video comments. Off camera was Communications Manager Danielle Smith, queuing up 70s videos and music, managing the YouTube Live chat feature, and keeping us online for five hours! 

All told, more than 1,500 viewers tuned in for the broadcast, a first in Gateway’s history and an overwhelming show of support for the fundraiser that almost wasn’t.