Saturday night’s fundraising celebration at Immanuel Christian School (ICS) in Aylmer was themed, “A Wedding to Remember” and it certainly lived up to its title! Men sporting top hats and tuxedos posed for photographs with elegantly dressed ladies in a beautifully decorated gymnasium. And at least a dozen women pulled their wedding dresses out of storage last week, excited to have an excuse to wear them —all in support of the Christian elementary school.
“My sisters and I were very excited to get dressed up for this evening,” shared Nellie Buis, whose children and grandchildren have attended ICS. “We work at the mission thrift store here in town, and we picked out fancy dresses and accessories to wear tonight. It’s fun to see how everyone else is dressed up as well—we don’t always have the opportunity to do that anymore.”
Upon arrival at the school, community supporters were immediately treated as honored guests. The hallway to the gymnasium was lined with rustic doors displaying the wedding photographs of many of ICS’s well-loved community members. The gymnasium was beautifully decorated, with ornamental netting hanging from the ceiling to support decorative lanterns above each table, photo booths adorning old-fashioned furniture and picture frames to create lasting memories of the evening, and a center table showcasing a spectacular display of desserts.
The idea of using a wedding theme for the fundraising event came from a church sign that Fundraising Committee member Rose Fehr saw as she drove by it on the way to her naturopath. “The sign read, ‘Weddings Through the Ages’, and every time I drove past it I was intrigued by what they were doing with that. I kept thinking about how much fun it would be to build an event from that idea, and things just kind of evolved from there.”
In the past, the school has held more traditional Goods-and-Services Auctions for their fundraising events, and Ms. Fehr admitted that this new idea took awhile to catch on in the community. “This event is definitely different than the ones we’ve had in the past, and I think there were a lot of people that looked at the things we had planned and weren’t sure if it was something that was for them or not,” she shared. “But the word got out over the past couple of weeks that it was going to be pretty special, and suddenly people started signing up—I think they were worried that they were going to miss out on something!”
There was an atmosphere of friendly competition throughout the meal, as guests were encouraged to buy their own dessert for the meal, bidding on the delicacies either individually or as a table. “I’ve never seen such beautiful food,” shared Janina Dykxhoorn, a relatively new parent at ICS whose son is in grade two and whose daughter started kindergarten this year.
Many of the desserts were donated by local businesses in the community, and a few were also handmade by parents or former students. As the dinner progressed, the prices of the desserts kept climbing. A few of the more popular options were shifted to a live auction, which brought out an even greater competitive side to some. Laughter rippled through the gymnasium as friends, colleagues, and even strangers tried to outbid each other for their favorite treats.
For Beth Saarloos, the auction was not just about eating the chocolate cheesecake she was bidding on—it was also about redemption. “At the last Goods-and-Services Auction, I tried to buy a cheesecake just like this one, but I was outbid,” she shared. “I wasn’t going to let that happen again tonight!”. Ms. Saarloos and her table ended up buying the infamous cheesecake—and inadvertently also winning the prize for the highest priced dessert sold.
“The dessert auction was definitely my favorite part of the evening—so much fun!” shared Ms. Dykxhoorn. “It’s so nice to be with the people from the community, to get together and laugh and celebrate together in a way that you don’t normally get to do in this way.”
While the wedding-themed event was certainly different from the fundraising evenings that the ICS community was accustomed to, it was clear that everyone was enjoying the celebratory spirit of the evening. “In the past, we used to have school bazaars, and I would make buckets of pea soup to sell,” reminisced Ms. Buis. “But I certainly am enjoying the new ways that the younger generations are coming up with to have fun together and to raise funds for the school.”
“The ‘Wedding to Remember’ event certainly left the guests talking!” shared ICS principal Keith Cameron. “With both silent and live auctions, quirky minute-to-win-it games, costume prizes, and entertaining banter, it was a great date night out!”
“I’m always amazed at the generosity of people when they come to these events,” shared community parent and grandparent Trudy Wiebenga. “When you look around, you can tell that they are really invested in supporting the school and how it is leading our children and grandchildren. Even people who didn’t go to this school or don’t have family members going here—they’re part of a community, they realize that this place is important, and they are willing to give to help support it.”
Mr. Cameron was quick to agree. “It was a great night, not only of fun and laughter, but also of focusing on the serious business of supporting a rural Christian school with high goals, bringing Christians of many different church communities together, building on a core of over sixty years of support, and sharing as God has blessed us.”
The fundraising committee were thrilled at the overwhelming success of the evening. They were able to raise over $23 000—a generous amount for the school’s capital fund. But the event planners emphasized that their goal was more than just about the money—it was about pulling people together.
“It’s always about bringing the community together,” shared Ms. Wiebenga. “Sometimes the ways that we do that looks different than it used to, and I think that’s important because when you look around at the people that are here this evening, there are younger people and older people and they are all having fun.”
“If nothing else, we have very generous people in this community,” she added. “They’re generous with their time, with their money, and with their care for each other because they love this school and they love Christian education. That’s what will pass on through the generations, and an evening like this celebrates that in a unique and beautiful way.”
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Photos courtesy of Mary Giesbrecht