The 678,000 Reasons Annual Gala was our first in history! As a startup organization and with COVID restrictions and impact, the experts told us not to expect a good turnout. We kept feeling like we needed to move forward and plan for a significantly larger guest list. At times we felt crazy, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that we needed to plan bigger! I am so glad we did! Because less than two weeks before the gala, the CDC lifted restrictions, and we could accommodate more than double the guests! So our team went to work, and we maxed out our event space capacity!!
Here is what Our Gala Guests Had to Say!
“So shocked this was their first gala! 5-stars all the way!”
“Sam Samson provided a very moving testimony!”
“What an amazing event tonight! A beautiful venue, beautiful speakers, and a beautiful cause!!”
“All of the various speaker’s experiences and backgrounds were so important to hear!”
“The visuals kept us engaged. Katie’s passion is infectious!”
“I was excited to hear someone talk about fostering, most often it’s only about adoption.”
“Friendliness with the guests was outstanding!”
“Both Sam and Katie knocked it out of the park with their presentations, and should definitely be leveraged again.”
*We apologize the video/audio was not the best due to our limited resources. Please be sure audio is set all the way on high both in the player and on your device.
An Evening to Remember
The evening was filled with excitement as guests filled the Stanley Event Center in downtown Lees Summit, MO. They came into a red carpet welcome and were greeted by the lovely Leah Emerick for red carpet pictures. The evening was buzzing with excitement as people could not believe the excitement that filled the room and the turnout for a first-time gala event. The room shimmered in gold as a result of the creative giftings of the beautiful Melissa Jochems! Volunteers and the Empower The Fight leadership team pulled together and served guests.
The room danced with the joy of colorful balloon designs from Crystal Samson. Amid all of the activity, Alyssa Whitman was jumping in and filling in where she saw needed help. Marsha Garrett pushed through, not feeling well, and led a kitchen crew to pull off what seemed impossible. As guests ate, talked, and connected, the Empower The Fight leadership team mingled across the room to communicate with every single table and person there personally.
The evening was well underway but far from over! As the first speaker took to the stage and the real heart of the evening began! Shouts of “Arrowhead” quickly connected to the heartfelt “678,000 Reasons” message of the gala. Now it was time to talk about the lives of children who suffer the horrors of abuse and neglect. How do you talk about such a delicate subject?
Sam Samson took the stage in eloquence and grace and shared his childhood story of severe maltreatment. For the first time in his life, he told publically the stories he kept closed in silence. Bringing to light what child maltreatment looks like for the audience. Driving home that this is NOT a distant world away, it is right here in America! He also shared how the selfless acts of one courageous family changed the trajectory of his life forever and set him on a course not only for success but also for raising his own family differently.
From Victims to Rescuers
Our hearts were softened and poised for more when the lovely Marsha Garrett took the stage and gave us a noble example of being a foster parent. A foster parent that approaches fostering for not what you can gain but for what you can give to a child. Our perspectives continue to broaden as Alyssa Whitman took the stage. As a child welfare professional, she told a gripping story of a child that spanned her entire ten-year career. A real-life case filled with generations of pain caused when children don’t have loving families ready to provide them safety and love. Our hearts fell to the floor at the reality of this happening in our country every day.
Filling the Gaps
The final speaker took to the stage poised with passion and zeal to drive it all home. I, Katie Fetzer, had the room stand with me as we began to show the audience the small percentage of foster families who make it past one year of service. Not because they are bad people, but because the system is broken and full of gaps that leave well-meaning families hopeless and powerless to make a difference. As I hurried across the stage, I led the room on a two-year timeline of the gaps in standard state processes and how that causes us to lose many needed foster families. Then we broke down how Empower The Fight walks with those families to fill those gaps so that children amid a broken system have a voice because families who courageously step up to care for them finally know how to be that voice!
It was a night for the history books of Empower The Fight. It was two years in the making, and it was many years of living out the process. Empower The Fight exists to see the scripture of Psalms 10:18 become a known reality, “The orphan and the oppressed will be terrified no longer, for You will bring them justice and no one will trouble them!”
We’re on a mission to Eradicate Child exploitation in America!
A huge THANK YOU to all of our community sponsors: Stinson, Fresh Start Restoration, LG Emerick Photography, Robert & Ginny Young, Kenda Tomes, Bayly Presentations, 252 Leadership, Texas Roadhouse of Lees Summit, Back Porch BBQ of Lees Summit, Olive Garden of Lees Summit, Quik Trip Community, Royal Construction, Smile Doctors of Lees Summit, Grandma’s Office Catering of Kansas City, Chick-fil-A of Lees Summit, Trader Joes of Kansas City, & Costco of Independence.