The StepUP Gala took place this past Friday, October 11th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, and it was a huge success. Along with great speakers, great food, and great people we reached our goal of raising over $200,000 for the StepUP Program. The faculty, administration, and students of StepUP give thanks to our supporters and generous donors with deep gratitude.
Getting ready for the Gala was a bit of a process; picking out a dress or button up shirt, getting the right shoes, tying a tie, which jewelry matches best? As a first year student I was excited to get dressed up with my friends and attend the Gala. The night started out with a social hour filled with family, friends, supporters, and members of the StepUP Program. I got to meet so many great people, including my friend’s families, alumni, and organizations that were excited to support us. My mother and I quickly found our table and dinner was served. Don Shelby, former television journalist, led our night as the emcee.
Patrice Salmeri, director of the StepUP program, gave an amazing speech on the power of believing in not only StepUP, but recovery and recovery programs world wide. She shared how impacted she has been by working with students in recovery, and how important it has become in her life. I am so grateful to have people like her, and the counselors, that advocate so much for us in the StepUP program.
I had the opportunity to volunteer to help with the auctioning of four beautiful vacation homes. Several students and I walked around searching for the bidders and encouraging him or her to keep bidding once he or she had started. The energy in the room was high and exciting. There was quite the bidding battle over one of the homes but it was quickly resolved at a $9,500 bid. My peers and I had a lot of fun helping out, and the auctioneer, Karen Sorbo, had an upbeat energy that added some excitement to the night.
Following the auction, Dana Olson was our alumni speaker of the night. She offered an authentic, meaningful—but humorous—story about her experience with chemical dependency, recovery and how StepUP gave her a safe place to attend college while living in a community of people who were moving towards similar goals. Dana had a great story and it put into perspective for me, and I’m sure many others, how big of an impact this community had and still has on so many lives.
Jim Ramstad was our Keynote speaker for the night. He shared his endorsement for collegiate recovery programs. Ramstad eloquently spoke about how important it is for programs like StepUP to exist in colleges. He also touched on how, as a community supporting recovery, we need to work together to eliminate the stigma that comes with being chemically dependent while advocating and supporting recovery efforts in all institutions. Jim made a huge impact on the audience, and his speech motivated me to become more involved in other recovery programs.
All in all, it was a great night filled with great speakers and flourishing with supporters. Attending the Gala with my mother and friends was so much fun. It reminded me how grateful I am for the life I lead today (even my mom was tearing up next to me). The evening made me very proud of the community I belong to, and how important this is, not only to the students in StepUP, but the outside community who supports us.