The Secret Garden Gala Raises over $100k for Root for Kids

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, approximately 240 friends of Root for Kids (formerly The Learning Center for Families) packed the Sun River Community Center Ballroom full for the second annual Root for Kids Gala. Over $100,000 ($88,000 net proceeds) were raised to help fund services provided by Root for Kids that benefit over 600 children every week throughout Washington County and along the Arizona Strip.

Root for Kids Gala

The theme of the event was “The Secret Garden”. Beautiful live planter centerpieces and decor, a floral photo backdrop and a garden arbor entry into the ballroom created the perfect mood. The arbor was decorated with greenery and hanging keys. Guests could select a key as their ticket to the Opportunity Drawing for a chance at winning a Vegas vacation.  A committee of volunteers and staff members and over $13,500 in in-kind donations helped to create the magical feel of the venue that guests were raving about throughout the evening.

Root for Kids Gala

The program included a cocktail hour and silent auction, dinner catered by Katering Koncepts, and the presentation of six annual community awards including:

  • 2019 Outstanding Volunteer: Dixie Sunrise Rotary Club
  • 2019 Outstanding Health Partner: University of Utah Physician Assistant Program
  • 2019 Outstanding Community Partner: Utah Food Bank
  • 2019 Outstanding Donor: The Kahlert Foundation
  • 2019 Outstanding Business: Litehouse Foods
  • 2019 Debbie Justice Legacy Award: Ellen Arch
2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Dr. Ellen Arch, Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board President)

The Debbie Justice Legacy Award is presented in honor of Debbie Justice, who founded the nonprofit in 1993. The recipient receives a piece of artwork donated by a local artist. This year, Dr. Ellen Arch received the award for her meaningful and impactful contributions to Root for Kids and children in our community.

Local opera singer Tennile Coello sang classic Broadway tunes during dinner to add even more magic to the evening. Following Tennile, a video reminded guests of the purpose of their support. It featured Representative Lowry Snow discussing the importance of early childhood education, as well as family stories.

Guests also heard from Joy Davis whose daughter Emery participated in Root for Kids’ Early Intervention program last year. Kendyll Barber, an alumni of the program who received services as a toddler over 20 years ago, also spoke.

Root for Kids Gala
Tennile Coello
Root for Kids Gala
Nick and Emery Davis

One of the more touching parts of the evening included Root for Kids CEO Suzanne Leonelli pointing out the reserved empty seat for long-time donor and volunteer St. George City Councilman Joe Bowcutt who passed away unexpectedly the week prior. Joe was actively involved with Root for Kids and frequently brought in groups of volunteers.

Another highlight of the evening included watching guests raise their paddles in support of Root for Kids programs. The children at the Caterpillar Clubhouse decorated the paddles, which added an extra touch. The paddle raise generated a total of over $18,400 as the auctioneer started by requesting bids of $5,000 all the way down to $25. It was followed by a live auction emceed by local comedian Ed Tracey.

Root for Kids Gala
Suzanne Leonelli, Root for Kids CEO

This fundraiser was made possible by a total of 30 sponsors including Red Rock Broadcasting, Litehouse Foods, America First Credit Union, Snow Jensen & Reece, and The Kahlert Foundation among others. The silent auction used a paperless bidding system with guests bidding from their cell phones and bidding stations placed around the room. Items included a 70” 4K Sony Smart TV, Utah Jazz Swag basket, homemade quilts and treats, hotel stays and a Zion Helicopter Flight for 4. The live auction included a Crazy Cash Grab and vacation packages to New Orleans, San Francisco, a 7-night stay in Cabo San Lucas and the 2020 U.S. Open Golf Tournament, just to name a few.

Root for Kids Gala
Live Auction | Ed Tracey, Auctioneer

Root for Kids is grateful to everyone who was part of The Secret Garden Gala. We could not do our work without the support of an amazing community of donors, volunteers, advocates and friends. Join us for our next fundraising event on December 16, 2019


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