The La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, citing “public health risks that the coronavirus disease poses in large public gatherings,” has made the unprecedented decision to cancel the organization’s 29th annual Spring Gala, which was scheduled for March 21.
“This is a huge loss for us because it’s our main fundraiser, but public safety outweighs it,” LCFEF Executive Director Marilyn Yang said. LCFEF and La Cañada Unified School District officials “are aligned in this decision, out of an abundance of caution,” she added.
The gala, which is widely regarded as the city’s biggest social event of the year, has drawn upward of 700 attendees. Last year, it netted more than $500,000, with gross revenue likely in excess of $700,000.
“We are asking people to convert their ticket cost to a straight donation, which is 100% tax deductible,” Yang said. “But we are also offering refunds.”
Detailed discussions about the future of this year’s gala started in earnest Tuesday morning, Yang said. As part of the decision, “there was discussion about postponing it,” she said, but the Intercontinental Los Angeles hotel in downtown Los Angeles had limited available dates. There was also “discussion about [the upcoming] fall, but we already have other [LCFEF] events scheduled,” Yang said.
In a statement, the LCFEF board of directors said its “leadership team made this difficult decision out of concern for the health and safety of our La Cañada friends, neighbors and sponsors, and in concert with precautions being taken by LCUSD and the greater Los Angeles County public health agencies. We understand that this change may cause great inconvenience for you, and we are sincerely sorry. We are hopeful that by playing a role in raising consciousness and taking appropriate protective measures, we will support the World Health Organization and other agencies in working together across communities to stop this threat.”
Yang said, “We’ve already had a lot of positive feedback that it’s the best decision we could make.”
In addition to LCFEF requesting gala attendees to donate the cost of their tickets to the foundation, the items that were scheduled to be in the live auction and silent auction will now be available in an online auction. “It will open at 9 a.m. on March 21 and be open for about a week,” Yang said. Some of the premier items include theater tickets to “Hamilton,” a trip to Costa Rica and tickets to a Rams game at their new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. More than 400 items may be bid on at lcfef.org.
Soo Kim Choi, who was to be presented with the prestigious Spirit of Outstanding Service Award at the gala, will receive it at next spring’s 2021 gala, Yang said.
The only other documented postponement or cancelation of the Spring Gala occurred in 1992. That first annual LCFEF “Puttin’ on the Ritz” gala, which honored longtime local resident Neal Brockmeyer, was delayed because the controversial verdict in the trial of the police officers who beat Rodney King had been announced a day before the scheduled fundraiser, leading to civil unrest throughout the Los Angeles area. The gala was delayed until the following week, according to former LCFEF President Barbara Racklin, and held at what is now the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena.
Several large-scale events have already been postponed in greater Pasadena, including ArtNight Pasadena, originally scheduled for Friday.
— Staff reports