It was a sunny and unusually hot June day at the La Conner Flats in the rolling fields of Skagit County. Guests were enjoying the shade under the festive canopy, taking in the atmosphere, while enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine. Yet, the atmosphere was notably different to the 175 plus in attendance. They were in for a brand new experience.
This was a new type of fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County and intentionally so. For those that continually run in philanthropic circles in Skagit County, the events can become boringly predictable, with non-profit organizations stuck in a mode of “this is what works,” unwilling to break out of their fundraising strategies.
Thus, “Keys for Kids” was born. The idea came to Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County CEO, Ron McHenry after a visit to a piano bar in New Orleans. After surveying attendees comments after Club fundraising events, McHenry noticed a trend. “We do Fun well. Let’s make that a focus for our events.” FUN is also one of the Organization’s values.
Last year’s event featured two two high-energy performers on keys taking requests, and giving others an opportunity to end a song and have theirs heard instead. Things really got rolling when someone requested “The Marine Hymn”. “No, no, no,” interjected Mr. Reed, holding up a handful of bills, “I’m an Army man,” as the tune switched mid note into “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” Club donations rolled in as guests requested their favorites. The crowd became inspired to dance, clap, hoot, holler, and add their voices to Neal Diamond’s refrain, “Sweet Caroline!”
The post-event response was electric. So many vowed to come back next year that the Organization is adding a second night. Keys for Kids is set to take place at La Conner flats on June 24th and 25th. Tickets are $75 per night and include, dinner by Avenue Bread, Boundary Bay beer, and Thurston Wolfe wines.
“Keys for Kids promises to deliver a full night of FUN. One might spend the same amount on a night of dinner and a show. The difference here, is that 100% of the proceeds will go to Skagit County youth,” says McHenry. With four Clubs in Skagit County, mainly funded by local community members and businesses, every dollar raised is significant. Recent data shows that 85% of Club members utilize free or reduced lunch. This is the highest percentage in Washington State, and the state categorizes them as “at risk” youth. “These are truly the youth that need us most.” explains McHenry, “They need a safe, positive place to got to after school.”
The Clubs currently operate Monday through Friday during after-school hours with included snacks & meals, providing Targeted Programs, focusing on Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, and Good Character & Citizenship. They are also gearing up for summer hours with their #DiscoverSummer program, offering additional opportunities such as STEM Camp, Teen Adventures, Sports Camps, and fun, educational Field Trips.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Clubs or about attending Keys for Kids can visit www.skagitclubs.org.
Photos by Sarah Arquitt