Charity Ball raises community awareness

After a year filled with controversy and contention, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union committee Charity Ball hosted their final event this past Saturday.

The theme of Alice in Wonderland was well-chosen, and approximately 350 people attended the dinner and dance in support of Epilepsy of Waterloo Wellington.

Although final numbers for a donation will not be ready for a couple of weeks, Charity Ball co-ordinator Claire Petch is confident that the committee’s main event was a success.

Regular tickets to the ball were priced at $50, while the VIP tickets were $70, though they increased in price after March 1. Last-minute purchases and those who decided to buy tickets simply for the dance and not dinner, which weren’t advertised, made it difficult for the committee to pinpoint how many attended the event.

Charity Ball had a rocky start this year, with The Cord reporting that the 2008-09 committee raised only $159, despite having a budget projected at $32,417.

The tension regarding the issue was felt throughout campus, and Petch admitted that morale was low among volunteers during the few events that followed the October story.

“A lot of new volunteers … weren’t sure how to deal with some of the negative feedback we got,” said Petch, “But my executive team, we did our best to intervene when we had to deal with people like that.”

Jason Verhoeve, WLUSU vice-president of clubs and activities, echoed Petch’s statement, but said that the pitfalls of last Charity Ball were a positive incentive for this year’s committee.

“The article obviously put a little bit of a damper at the start,” said Verhoeve. “But it allowed the executive team to take a critical look at Charity Ball and what it offers students and whether they were wanting to offer a massive donation or whether they wanted to offer a quality event to the students that wanted to attend.”

The balance between a lavish event and donating to charity was also a point of contention earlier in the year, when students expressed disappointment in the lack of monetary donation and the WLUSU board of directors discussed the potential misleading of students by the committee.

“I think they found a good balance between the two and used what was said and offered in that article to put on the best event possible,” said Verhoeve.

Although the 2009-10 Charity Ball budget was created long before any news broke of their meagre donation to KidsAbility last year, it was the committee’s intention all along to cut costs wherever they could without jeopardizing the “appearance of the event,” according to Verhoeve.

“Doing it ourselves and looking for alternative suppliers … in the interest of reducing costs” was an angle Verhoeve said the committee attempted to take.

“We really cut down on decoration costs, ceiling treatment too,” explained Petch. “Searching around for a good price and cutting costs everywhere adds up.”

Among the guests in attendance was Samantha Campana, a third-year Laurier communications student, who said she thought the Charity Ball executives had handled the bad publicity well and have now “risen above” the controversy.

Many members from Epilepsy of Waterloo Wellington attended the dinner, and executive director Catherine Bodden expressed her excitement for the event and the awareness it garnered for her charity and cause.

“It’s just a matter of recognizing that you guys are our future advocates,” said Bodden of the Laurier community.

Despite this positive message, many noted that as Bodden spoke to those in attendance on Saturday while dinner was being served, she had to ask the audience to pay attention to her message halfway through her speech. However, the crowd did give her a standing ovation as she left the podium, though many talked through her entire presentation.

Overall, Petch expressed that she and the executive team are happy with the way Charity Ball turned out this year, not just for the final event but also throughout the year, calling it “a really big success.”

“Everybody who went had a great time and the charity got to get their message out,” said Petch. “I don’t think there’s anything much else we can ask for.”

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