This year’s dinner auction is on Saturday, March 3rd. And this year, it’s going to be different.
After 22 years of being primarily a school event, this year it’s for everyone. It’s even been given a new name — the “Together Event” — and it’s been remade as an opportunity for the whole parish community to come together in fellowship to celebrate our Catholic faith and support our school.
I spoke with the event’s three co-chairs recently, and asked them about the changes. One big change? Who is invited. In past years, there were 500 to 600 invitations mailed out. This year, there were 2500. The invitations were sent to parish members, school families, alumni and past families, grandparents, and friends of the school. “We want everyone to know they’re welcome, that we really want them to be there,” said co-chair Grace Sobotka. “And even if you didn’t receive an invitation for some reason, you’re still invited.”
Grace has three children at the school, in K3, 1st and 4th grade. The first time she attended the auction, she didn’t know anybody else there. Even so, she had a wonderful time, and met some new people who have since become friends. She realized what a special event the auction is, and decided to volunteer to help with it the following year. Although it’s a lot of work to chair (her co-chair Nick Shera said that a quick count shows he’s already exchanged more than 2000 emails and texts about the auction) she wanted to do it again to provide continuity, which she knew would make the planning much easier for everyone.
Nick, who has a child in K4 and one in 1st grade, had a similar experience. His family moved to West Bend from Chicago and didn’t know many families in the area. He and his wife went to the auction their first year with Cabrini, and had “an amazing time.” As a newbie, he’s tuned in to some of the reasons people had for not attending in the past, and he and his co-chairs are doing their best to address those reasons, to help make sure everyone can come.
Want to come, but don’t know who you’d sit with? Don’t worry. Volunteers will match you with a table, so everyone will have a good time.
Want to come, but don’t have a babysitter? Don’t worry. Just ask. Volunteers are lining up a list of qualified babysitters, and can help you out with good leads.
Early on, the three chairs sat down over dinner with principal Aaron Hilts and Fr. Nathan to brainstorm their vision for the event. The most important outcome? That the auction should be for our whole parish community, because for our parish, a thriving school and a thriving parish community are deeply connected.
Nick was surprised that families who used to attend the auction, and who remember it fondly, stopped attending when their kids graduated 8th grade. “This event isn’t just for parents of current students. It’s a great tradition, a great party, and a great excuse to dress up and meet up with old friends. It’s for everyone who’s ever been part of the school and parish community.”
After attending the 60th anniversary celebration, and seeing the depth of the connection people have with the school, he observed, “I’m a UW alum, and it’s something I’m proud of, and that’s part of my identity. And I see how many people feel that way about Cabrini too, how glad people are to be part of our history. This is another way that people can continue to keep that connection going.”
Melinda Belger is our third co-chair. Her kids are in K4 and 2nd grade. When her first child started at Cabrini, she volunteered to help on the decorations committee, which proved to be a great way to get to know more families. She had so much fun volunteering and attending that she readily agreed when Grace suggested she become a chair. And, she pointed out with a laugh, it didn’t hurt that Grace waited to ask until after she’d had her first glass of wine.
The co-chairs are excited about making the changes that are making this a more community-wide event, and they’re putting a lot of energy and imagination into the planning. Another big change this year? Instead of a band, the entertainment will be dueling pianos, which should make for a really fun time.
You’ll also notice a change during the live auction. Part of the fun of the verbal auction is bidding, and the chairs want to make sure everyone who wants to can bid. So this year, the price range for verbals is much wider. And watch for the buy-in parties, which are new this year. When one of those goes up to bid, there will be a set price to purchase a limited number of tickets to the party. The tickets will be sold first come, first served, so get those bidding paddles up quickly.
The three have been having a lot of fun with the planning, and they enjoy working together. Grace said she loves both the planning and the participating aspects of the auction. She likes that it brings people together and gives them a chance to meet other parishioners and other school families. Especially on the day of the event, so many people come in to help with setup and decorating. “It’s a really neat sight to see.”
Cabrini Together Under the Tuscan Sun
March 3, 2018 at 4:30pm
Washington County Fair Park Ziegler Building
For more information, including downloadable invitations and RSVP cards, and the schedule for the evening, see the event website: www.cabrinitogether.com.