Our History: Over 30 Years of Giving
In 2012, all donors began receiving a Spirit of 67 magnet for their car in order to increase visibility of the Spirit in the community and give donors a way to demonstrate their support. Melissa Burger, President from 2011-13, recalls, “The CUBE was such a big endeavor! Collaborating with the district to create that space for the DPM kids was reminiscent of large grants of the past like The Spirit of Science in which Spirit and the district worked together to make a very large impact in one space or department.”
Starting in 2014, the Spirit began Grant Day, a full-day celebration where grant ‘dollars’ are awarded to selected recipients for implementation during the following school year. Grants are awarded in person by the Spirit Grants Committee to teachers and students, helping to build awareness of the impact of the Spirit throughout the student and teacher populations.
In the fall of 2015, the Spirit conducted the first “Raise your Hands for Education” Online Auction and “Kick up your Boots for Education” Barn Dance Benefit. The Online Auction was open to all families and community members, widening the reach beyond only luncheon attendees and the week culminated with the Barn Dance Benefit, once again allowing spouses to join in and support the Spirit. Over two years these fall events raised over $85,000. During the fall of 2015 the Spirit also introduced a new way for businesses to support our organization called Partners in Education. The businesses who participate make a significant annual contribution in support of our mission and they are recognized throughout the year in our publications and at our events. The Spirit continued to run the immensely popular and profitable annual “Opening Doors For Education” Home Tour, drawing hundreds of attendees, advertisers and sponsors. In 2016, the Home Tour brought in over $70,000 for the Spirit.
During the fall of 2016, the board created Founders’ Fund Grants, in honor of our founding board members, as a means to address time sensitive and important opportunities that arise outside of the annual grant cycle. In 2017, the Spirit again partnered with the District by making a gift of $250,000 towards the renovation of the Haskins Center at DPM West. This reimagined 21st century learning space will be designed to provide students and teachers opportunities for collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. It’s worth noting that in the early years of the organization an idea for funding “Exploration Centers – multifaceted Media Centers” for each school was considered at great length but was abandoned when the estimated cost of $300,000 each was prohibitively expensive and project would be a major undertaking beyond the capacity of the foundation. It’s exciting that three decades later our organization has supported the re-imagining of the information resources centers at all of our buildings through various grants.
In 2017, after holding the Barn Dance for two years, the fall event moved back to a ladies luncheon and was renamed the Thanks 4 Giving Benefit Luncheon which was held at Knollwood Country Club. This event featured guest speaker Steve Pemberton and coincided with the “Raise your Hands for Education” Online Silent Auction, raising over $57,000 for the Spirit. Home Tour was held in the spring, featured 4 beautiful homes and raised over $78,000. As a way to increase family participation, a Crosstown Competition Contest was launched. Schools that reached 80% participation received $1,000 and the school with the highest participation received bragging rights and a trophy to display along, with a popsicle party for the entire school.
Benefit levels for receiving the popular Shop with Spirit card were restructured at the start of the 2018/19 campaign and two different levels of cards were offered to donors based on their contribution. A $167+ donation entitled donors to a “blue” card for deals to many local businesses and a $300+ donation entitled the donor to a “gold” card which included restaurants. Donations soared and the Spirit reached over 50% participation for the first time ever. The Thanks 4 Giving Benefit Luncheon was held in the fall, along with the online silent auction, and raised $86,000. Capitalizing on an opportunity presented by a District family, a new fundraising event “Night at the Casino - Bet on 67” was held in April 2019 at Lake Forest Sports Cars. This couples event featured blackjack, roulette, craps and other fun games and raised over $50,000. All elementary schools reached 80% for the first time and overall participation was over 67%
The fall event switched gears in 2019 and the “Stand Up for Spirit” Ladies Night Out was held at Onwentsia and sold out in 10 days! The event featured comedian Pat McGann and in conjunction with the online silent auction raised almost $100,000! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Home Tour was postponed in the spring of 2020.
For the 2019-20 Fiscal Year, all elementary schools reached 80% participation, Deer Path Middle School participation reached over 61% and overall family participation was over 68%.