How our annual Rett fundraising event has evolved over the years

We've learned valuable lessons about how to run a successful fundraiser

Jackie Babiarz avatar

by Jackie Babiarz |

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This Saturday, April 29, our family will host our 11th annual Cammy Can’s Cinderella Story fundraiser for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation in honor of our daughter Cammy, who was diagnosed with Rett syndrome in 2011 when she was 20 months old. Over the past 11 years of producing these fundraisers, we’ve learned much about how to run one efficiently and effectively.

Our first fundraiser took place on a Monday night in 2012, at Revolution Brewing in Chicago. It was two hours long, and 100 people attended. We had only a few raffle items and a dozen silent auction items. Our goal was to raise $30,000, so we were over the moon when we raised $40,000.

We learned a lot from that event. We realized we needed to hold the fundraiser on a Saturday to bring in more people. We needed to have volunteers to be in charge of specific tasks. (Fortunately, dear friends and family members have been eager to fulfill those roles.) And the event needed to be longer because the more people drink, the more money they spend.

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For the next several years, we held the event at Sidebar Grille in Chicago. It was a fantastic venue with incredible management, and we were able to host up to 200 people. We ran the event each year from 5-10 p.m. on the third Saturday of March — right in the middle of March Madness. Our thought was that we’d attract more people then. Friends and family could entice their acquaintances to attend, even if they didn’t know us, by promising the NCAA college basketball tournament would be playing on TV.

Year after year, the crowd grew, and more money was raised. Each year, we raised our goal by $10,000 and achieved it. We’ve been fortunate to get an incredible price for items like food and shirts, which helps keep our costs low. Steady sponsors, including Buona and Green Door Promotions, have been wonderful partners, and we’re so grateful for their support.

Unfortunately, we had to pivot when the pandemic struck. We weren’t able to host an in-person event in 2020, so we held a virtual one. That event was a milestone for us, as we surpassed $1 million total raised in Cammy’s honor.

Sadly, Sidebar didn’t survive the pandemic, so we had to find a new benefit location. We’ve been using Farehouse Market in Chicago, and the layout is perfect for our needs. We’re excited to host our 11th fundraising event this Saturday, which will feature several raffle items, over 40 silent action items, and seven live auction items. Knowing how vital our event is for the future of Rett syndrome, our sights are set on raising $175,000.

Note: Rett Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Rett Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Rett syndrome.


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