As soon as guests started to arrive at Free Arts 25th Anniversary Gala at the JW Marriot Camelback Inn and Spa, we could see that it would be a magical and festive night full of music, dancing, art, and celebration, as only Free Arts can. Over 300 guests joined us for the October 20th Gala, presented by APS, donned in creative cocktail-inspired clothes and accessories. Those who did not come in creative attire were invited to create accessories like corsages made out of snack bags or tiaras made out of plastic goggles and bottle caps at our make-and-take art table. In the lobby, guests bid on art pieces and gift packages as they sipped drinks and snacked on savory hors devours.
Inside the ballroom, the night’s festivities began with a dance lesson, let by Free Arts program alum, Katie. Guests learned how to salsa and country swing dance as the DJ played music. Our alumni took the stage with powerful drumming processional, ushering our guests to their seats. The program kicked off with a heart-felt speech by Board President Cathy Graham who called upon every audience member to be a “Free Arts ambassador,” spreading the word of Free Arts’ impact in our community. After dinner, our alumni, the stars of the evening, returned to the stage to share their talents and personal stories of how Free Arts helped them overcome adversity and build resilience and hope. As alum, Gordy, said, Free Arts helped him find a group of people who had been through similar experience of homelessness and trauma. “Because of that, everything changed. I found my best friends and my reason for being.”
As the program continued, we took time to honor our special guests, Bob and Renee Parsons, the Free Arts way. Alumni serenaded the Parsons’ with an original song, dedicated to them and the many transformative gifts they have bestowed upon us. Moved by the performance, the Parsons announced that they would be donating another $1.1 million dollars toward the renovation of our building and Free Arts programs. Tears rolled down our alumni’s faces, as the audience stood up and applauded the impactful gift. Free Arts executive director, Alicia Sutton, stated, “Bob and Renee continue to support us in the most generous ways. This gift will help us expand services to more Arizona children and families through our important programs and through the Bob & Renee Parsons Center for Hope and Healing.”
After more dancing, the night came to an end. Even with tired feet, we couldn’t hide the smiles on our faces. The 25th Anniversary Gala was a success, raising a total of $1,358,066 to support our programs and building renovation. It was a perfect way to kick off our 25th year of transforming children’s trauma to resilience through the arts.
Bob and Renee Parsons with Free Arts Alumni