Bob Bury, president of the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education, knew the Fall Frolic was a success when he and his wife, Mary Ann Bury, arrived at the Cadieux Café the evening of Sept. 30. Looking around the patio beneath the strung lights of the outdoor venue, they recognized few of the guests.
That was the goal of the event, according to GPFPE board member and event co-chair Caroline Marks: to attract people who hadn’t attended their events in the past.
“Really, we were looking to make connections and build relationships to build support for the organization,” Marks said.
This meant “reaching folks who maybe they’ve heard about the GPFPE. Or maybe they have never heard about it, but they know about Leader in Me or their kid’s class got a new 3-D printer or their gym class got new gym equipment. Or they might have a kindergartener coming in so they might not know anything about what the GPFPE does. So that was our goal: to reach those folks and for them to have a great time.”
“The Foundation has supported teachers and students with technology and supplemental curriculum. In developing the Grosse Pointe Learning Network, the GPFPE allowed us to invite dynamic guest speakers for professional learning. The Foundation additionally has supported Leader in Me at all buildings I’ve had the pleasure of serving.”
Jodie Randazzo, principal, Ferry Elementary School
To achieve this goal, Fall Frolic co-chairs Marks, Sara Gough, Maria Quint and Brendan Walsh put together a host committee of parents representing every elementary school across the district, some with children in middle and high school as well.
“A lot of us on the committee have younger children, but if we weren’t on the board, we wouldn’t know who GPFPE is,” Walsh said. “We wanted to be clear: it is not a fundraiser. It is only an event to come out, learn about who we are, have a fun night at a local establishment and hear some music from our local principals and administration. That was how it all came up. When that idea germinated, that was when our committee all enthusiastically jumped on board.”
They knew they had put together the right group of people after their first planning meeting at Cadieux Café at the end of August.
“They were the most energetic, enthusiastic people,” Marks said. “They were so enthusiastic about the organization, the school system, for making the event a success.”
“The GPFPE has been an integral part of our school and supported both learning and social-emotional development across our grade levels. Recently, they donated to our new playground, which has already brought thousands of smiles. Additionally, they have continued to support what we do in our classroom through books, supplies, training and more. Richard is glad to have them as a partner for our school and community.”
John Kernan, principal, Richard Elementary School
Charlene Williams was one of those parents with younger children recruited to the committee. With four children between the ages of 5 and 11 — kindergarten and grades 3, 4 and 5 — she knew a little about the organization, but she and her husband didn’t have the time to get involved.
“We’ve always been intrigued with the foundation and what they do and the programs they bring,” she said. “We figured this was a good way for us to get to know more about the foundation and what they do and also to share our network,” Williams said.
She was so successful in recruiting her friends, by the week leading up to the event she overheard a few people saying, “Hey, are you going to Charlene’s party?”
Williams was quick to remind people she had “zero” to do with the planning of the party — those kudos went to the event co-chairs — but she was proud to be part of its success.
“It was flawless,” she said. “I honest to God did not hear one negative comment about the way it ran — the food, the drinks, the music. Everybody had glowing reviews. I give the event co-chairs all the credit for that.”
“At Monteith over the years, the Foundation has supported us with grants for Handwriting Without Tears, Leader in Me, math intervention materials, kindergarten center materials, and many more things we are eternally grateful to have at our school.”
Shelleyann Keelean, principal, Monteith Elementary School
Walsh credits the host committee for spreading the word, evident by the fact they exceeded a goal of 100 to 150 guests with more than 200 in attendance. He attributes this to a variety of factors, including the venue.
“The reason we picked Cadieux Café is, one, it’s a legendary local place that a lot of people drive by and say, ‘I’ve always wanted to go and I’ve never actually been’ — and two, they put a significant investment into an outdoor entertainment venue which is really beautiful and it fit us perfectly.”
Next, “the food was fantastic,” he added, and the entertainment was a plus.
“We had six guest DJs,” Walsh explained. “We had five principals and one administrator — Roy Bishop, the deputy superintendent. They competed for the Golden Record. Everyone got a raffle ticket and they could put it in a Mason jar to vote for who they thought was the best DJ of the night.”
Not only did the guest DJs engage the crowd with their banter, share their music tastes, and get people on the dance floor, they “talked about the impact they have seen at their schools with the GPFPE,” Walsh said.
For Williams, who knew a few of the administrators, “it was cool because you got a glimpse into their personality.”
Marks said she spoke to several of the principals afterwards and “they had a ton of fun. Some of them went all out.”
“I have always appreciated the support the GPFPE has extended to the educators at Mason Elementary. In my new role as deputy superintendent, I am in awe seeing exactly how the foundation has touched every school in our district. The support we receive from the foundation is remarkable. Thank you for all you do.”
Roy Bishop, GPPSS deputy superintendent for educational services
The affordable ticket price also was a draw, according to organizers.
“It floored me when they said the ticket prices,” Williams said. “For open bar, food and admission — $25. It was a great way to grab everybody. Even for both parents and the cost of a babysitter, that’s a great deal.”
And while “higher ticket price galas are great too,” she was grateful for the casual nature of the event, when the only attire required was “jeans with a zipper.”
“We were really mindful that we were going after that younger parent,” Marks said. “I remembered when I had little kids, you really don’t get out much and you want to make sure you make it’s worth people’s while. So, I was really glad to hear that it exceeded expectations.”
The hope is the Fall Frolic will have long-lasting benefits and even become an annual event “to kick off the school year, celebrate the Grosse Pointe Public School System and celebrate the GPFPE,” Marks said.
“I’m really hoping it embodied what they were trying to convey,” Williams said. “It was an introductory thing. I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes to the fact (the GPFPE) exists, what it does. Even if they don’t learn everything, it’s piqued interest. Certainly, my husband and I are very interested in getting involved. We’re not even halfway through with our kids (in GPPSS). We have a long way to go to see this organization and what it can provide.”
“The whole idea was this is what we do, this is who we are,” Marks said. “Most likely your children already are being positively impacted by something the GPFPE has granted into a classroom. When you’re at your school or when you’re in our neighborhood, look for what we’ve done. Keep us in mind. Talk about the good work we’re doing.”