PPEF Gala brings in $53K for grants
By Abigail Allen
The St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Hall was buzzing with conversation and the sound of the Pilot Point High School Jazz Band on Saturday evening.
They were gathered together for the Pilot Point Educational Foundation's annual gala.
"Last year we had about 225 [tickets sold]; this year, we have 280," PPEF President Micky Nortman said.
The jazz band was not the only student group on display. The culinary arts program students served as the waitstaff for the event, and the centerpieces were put together by the floral design students.
"It's just incredible, the support that we get from the high school to do this," Nortman said.
Sophomore Kaylen Stewart enjoyed the chance to perform with the band.
"It was my first jazz band performance," she said. "It was very fun."
The band, set up in the corner opposite the front door, could watch as everyone arrived.
"A bunch of us were really nervous," she said.
One of the attendees this year got to have an evening out of uniform.
"It's great," said Brad Merritt, the Pilot Point ISD Police Department chief. "It's a good cause, and it's fun to see everybody away from work and have a good time."
PPISD Superintendent Todd Southard was pleased to see so many people out for the event.
"We have a great turnout," he said. "Seems like we have a lot of people here, and a lot of new faces, too."
He said that's proof of "how supportive this community is of our school and our kids."
"I'm not surprised," he added. "As we continue to grow, we'll see those numbers continue to go up, too."
PPEF board member Lee Ann Ray said she's "just thrilled that we're getting to continue to do this."
Toastmaster Steve Sparkman served as emcee for the night, peppering in announcements and some humor to help the evening move along.
Silent auction items sat at the back of the room, with attendees filtering through the tables, which Sparkman encouraged attendees to bid on.
Those items, by the end of the night, went for a combined $3,130.
This year's auctioneer, Chad Chance, navigated his way through more than 70 auction items, which sold for a total of $53,075.
"It's a big honor," he said at the start of the night. "You can never fill the shoes of Billy Ray Pedigo, but we're going to do the best we can do and raise some money for the foundation."
When the game night basket, built by the kindergarten classes, came up on the block, the bidding went up quickly.
LTC Builders Owner Jeff Parrent faced off with Chris Vieth, and they were both motivated to spend big by the same person—Carlee Williams.
Parrent, Williams' father, was happy to learn he was bested by the father of one of Williams' students.
“I thought it was outstanding,” he said. “… To find out that one of her parents was bidding against it and eventually won was really cool.”
Chris and his wife, Madelyn Vieth, said they wanted to show their appreciation for the work Williams does to teach their daughter well.
"We just wanted to give back to the kindergarteners, especially the teachers, because we know that they need all the support that they can get," she said.
They chose to donate the basket back after winning it for $3,200, which means the teachers can use those for indoor recess when needed, Williams said.
"It means so much to us, and I know the kindergarten team … because I know that just means they know how much effort we put into teaching their little ones," she said.
Nortman said she was “extremely pleased” about the outcome of the gala.
“It turned out wonderfully well,” she said. “The food was great. The people were wonderful. The auction went fantastic. I can’t say enough good about this year’s gala. I’m just kind of over the moon.”