For the past few years, the Florida Thespians have raised more money for BC/EFA than any other education-based organization, donating a record $33,000 last year as a result from statewide efforts on our behalf.
So, when BC/EFA campaign coordinator Sara Conklin announced at their recent festival closing ceremony that the students had fallen $300 short of their goal, she was still proud, though a little disappointed.
Her fellow theatre students cheered, and so did their teachers and parents. Raising that much money for charity is an amazing feat. But Sara, who graduates this spring from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, wasn’t satisfied. At intermission, she went out into the lobby of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center with a cardboard box and asked her peers to keep the momentum going.
“Three hundred more!” she shouted, “we’ve got to make our goal!” And it worked, in more ways than she realized.
Backstage, retired theater teacher Don Jones, one of the festival founders and a strong supporter of theatre education, approached me with a pledge to cover the final $300 because he couldn’t bear to see the students not reach their goal after working so hard through the year to raise money for BC/EFA.
In the meantime, while Sara’s friends tossed her even more dollar bills and coins than she had hoped for, two different school troupes approached the proactive fundraiser to give her checks for the final $300, as well.
And just before the start of the second act, a returning graduate, with new access to his own trust fund, offered a check for $1,000 to his alma mater out of sheer pride for their untamable spirit.
So, when Sara took the podium again, she announced through tears of joy that the Florida Thespians had broken their own record – bringing in an amazing $35,600 for Broadway Cares! The crowd went wild, and Florida Student President Austin Miniard said, “Broadway Cares will always have a place here.
BC/EFA funds 31 Florida-based AIDS organizations annually with over $160,000 in grants, which the Florida Thespians realize as a call to action to support BC/EFA. Florida State Director Michael Higgins delegates most of his festival production – he runs the largest theatre festival in the country — to his student “work crew,” instilling in them the necessary organizational skills and confidence to succeed. Higgins supports his students’ efforts on behalf of BC/EFA, not just because they are so inspired to participate, but because of the AIDS awareness raised through Thespian fundraising in schools throughout the state.
We recognize the many Florida Thespian troupes who raised money for us throughout the state this year. Special thanks to Sara, Austin and Michael Higgins, and to all the “yellow shirts” at The Florida Thespian Festival for hosting such an exciting and successful campaign.
Florida Thespians rock!