The Horace Mann Parents Association (HMPA) benefit, “A Brave New World,” raised over $1 million, breaking records in terms of funds raised, underwriters secured, and event attendees. Approximately 1,600 people attended the benefit over Zoom last Friday and donated through the general appeal and live auction for scholarships and financial aid.
The auction benefit was broadcasted live from NBC Studios and hosted by NBC Weathercaster Dave Price. The auction consisted of two parts: the general appeal, in which the HMPA asked attendees for donations, and a live auction. During the general appeal, which raised $376,950, the school encouraged families to donate money towards the Annual Fund. In the auction, families bid on prizes.
Prizes included a Tiffany’s private salon tour and petals key pendant, a trip to Puerto Rico, a private performance by violinist Gil Shaham P ‘21 ‘24 with a dinner by Chef James Eu, and a barbeque at Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly’s house. All of the auction items were quickly bid on, and the final prices were $7,500 for the luxury trip to Puerto Rico, $10,000 for the private performance and dinner, and $17,500 for the barbeque at Kelly’s house.
The HMPA benefit committee worried engagement would decrease in a virtual environment, benefit Co-Chair Anne Hyun P’29 ’32 said. “We’re all burned out by so many Zooms, [and nobody] wants to be in front of another Zoom meeting on the camera.”
This year, the ticket prices were lowered to $200 to encourage participation from families across the school community. Benefit Co-Chair Sonal Pande P’25 ’28 said. “Unlike previous years, we knew that we could not count on rallying for support on the night as is usually done when the benefit is in person,” Pande said. “Our strategy was to focus on maximizing underwriting support in the run up to the event, giving us a strong head start towards our million dollar goal.”
Nevertheless, the committee was nervous that donations would be low as a result of low participation, but they gained confidence throughout the night. “We were pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support enabling us to surpass all previous benefits in total funds raised,” Hyun said.
Before this year’s benefit began, Kelly hosted a pre-show mixology lesson with a mixologist. The benefit also consisted of a pre-auction video that featured the course of the school year so far, a message from the benefit Co-Chairs, a speech from Kelly, and the live auction. While the benefit in past years has lasted four to five hours, this year, the program was condensed to fit within an hour and a half, Hyun said.
The video featured seniors answering Lower Division students’ questions, the Poetry Out Loud club reading “Ars Poetica” by Archibald Macleish, ensembles such as Sinfonietta and chorus performing “Sinfonietta No. 1 for Strings” by Coleridge-Taylor and Oiwi E respectively, and teachers discussing their struggles and triumphs throughout the year.
Additionally, to help make the benefit feel as “normal” as possible, the HMPA sent gala boxes to everyone who purchased a ticket. The gala boxes contained various ingredients for the mixology lesson, snacks, and the school’s merchandise, Hyun said.
“The parent community is very grateful for all that the school has done this year to enable the students to have a sense of normalcy, so the benefit was particularly important this year because it was a way for us as parents to show our thanks to the school,” Pande said.
Allison Lutnick P’14 ’16 ’19 ’24, one of the many parents who attended the benefit, was impressed by the event. “The Benefit Committee and everyone involved at [the school] did a wonderful job of adapting the event to the current circumstances,” she said. “It’s tricky to gather together such a large group online, but it was clear the HM community showed up like they always do.”
Although the event was virtual and parents could not celebrate together in person, Jennifer Ocean P ’24 ’30 enjoyed the program and the video production that gave her a glimpse into everything the faculty and staff have done this year to ensure her children had the best in-school experience possible. “I enjoyed that there were opportunities for everyone to participate in the event, whether through the silent auction, through underwriting, through sponsoring a teacher, through volunteering on a benefit committee, through the live auction.”