Thank you letter for our 12th Annual Wig Out Gala!

Our 12th annual WIG OUT gala was truly OUT OF THIS WORLD! For newcomers to our event, I love, love, love to write a long thank you letter as I always witness so many acts of kindness that make our event go live and lively! For those of you who prefer a simply thank you – Thank you for being a part of our Wig Out gala and helping us raise funds to support our breast cancer community and the women we assist thank you even more! We were elated to honor Billie Jo Herberger as our “Surfer Girl with Hope.” We learned about her impressive life accomplishments and courageous battles she has overcome with cancer – with a beautiful smile on her face. She will forever inspire me and our guests to lead with Hope and Joy. We also honored and our clients and heard their touching testimonies. We raised an incredible amount of funds (see below) that will help us sustain our invaluable programs to provide free breast health education, mammograms, wigs, and support. You have made a difference in the fight against breast cancer! You have my eternal gratitude!

For those of you who enjoy my backstories and rambling on here you go! As you know we had to postpone our Wig Out gala in 2020 as we were all isolated. Covid tried to crush us, but thanks to the encouragement of our board and financial support with emergency funds from long-time supporters and we held on!

If you recall, our gala is typically in April, as October is the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and busy, busy, busy. We host our Pink Out 5K in October plus, we have events that benefit us almost every single day of the month. Overly optimistic, I knew we could pull off two large scale events in one month with our small but mighty staff of two and a half women. We had just moved back into our office, already had our wonderful Title Sponsor, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and most of the gala prep work done back in 2019 with decorations ordered, invites done – easy breezy!

We started our prep for 2021 with super exciting news! I happened to meet Mrs. Billie Jo Herberger whose zest for life had me in awe! I rolled the dice and invited her to our gala and allow us the privilege of honoring her as our “Surfer Girl with Hope,” and low and behold she accepted our invitation along with her husband Judd Herberger and friend Bill Lykins! To add to it, one of her best friends and artist Patsy Lowry accepted our invitation to surprise her at our gala. Now to make this our best gala ever!

What was it I said? Easy breezy! Famous last words.

Our Pink Out 5K was held on October 2nd. We cleaned up and wrapped up October 3rd. With just thirteen days until our Gala, we quickly switched into Wig Out mode. With the craziness of the Pink Out there was no time to look at the schedule to realize we were way behind, plus we had never held a gala outside of a venue, so we knew there would be learning curves. We had hard deadlines to meet every day: printing, swag bags, posterboards, PowerPoints, missing décor, and holy smokes we forgot to get volunteers! We also didn’t consider when we made our yearly solicitation for silent and live auctions that the industries who typically gave in the past were hit hard in 2020 and could not afford to give. We had 5 items for our silent auction, zero live auctions and zero big raffle prize and our gala was less than two weeks away.

And then woman down! Our Director of Community Engagement, Angie Knope, came down with Covid, please keep her in her prayers as she is still undergoing chemotherapy with a comprised immune system and still home recovering. Laura Pentsa, our part time Director of Programs, and my right-hand man broke out our gala to do and we both panicked knowing this was too much for us to take on. Desperate for additional help we reached out to previous employees who kindly volunteered their time and saved many days - Ashley Plum, Rayn Fenty, her boyfriend Nate, and Jessica Cadby, who even flew back from her trip to New York to be a part of our event to help!!! Our board member Kate Kunberger and friend Jen Bookout came by the office to help, even constructing my blue waterfall wig for the event!

One week away and silent auction items started to roll in from board members and longtime supporters and even a couple live auctions from Titina’s Catering, Tulum Amansala Eco Chic Resort and more! Patsy Lowry filled our Heads and Tails raffle prize with a colorful box full of bejeweled artwork! We were still looking for our big $10,000 raffle when Rich Paulsen from Southern Glazier Wine and Spirits made my day! I called him to coordinate the generous donation from Tito’s and he asked me what else we needed. I shared with him our lack of items and my Spirits Raffle idea of a “Wheelbarrow full of Spirits” and no questions asked he said, “We got you!” I hung up the phone, shared the news with Laura and we danced around the room gleefully! It was coming together! The universe was conspiring with us!

Our last day of prep, Friday. It happened to be Laura’s kids spring break. She is a wonderful mother, devoted to her family! She had been in the office extra days and extra-long hours to help me and asked to take Friday off to spend some fun time with her kids. I agreed. Family comes first. Laura is a very kind woman and did not want to abandon me. Again, we forgot the volunteer crew! She knew it was just my husband and me to load the U-Haul, so she brought her kids to the office after their fun day to help load up. Couple hours later we were packed and ready to Wig Out. Laura headed home, John drove the U-Haul to our house, and Kate came by the office to help finish last touches on my wig and wait with me as John accidentally took my car keys and I couldn’t leave the office without locking it up, so I had to wait for him to drive back.

And then the phone rang. It was Laura. “I’m okay. But we were just hit by a drunk driver. The kids are okay. My leg hurts, but I’m okay. And I think my car is totaled.” Shook up and in need some emotional support, Kate jumped right in and said I’ll come sit with you until your husband arrives. Kate wound up driving her kids home, so they didn’t have to wait in the parking lot of the restaurant for hours while the police took their reports. (Friends are a special gift – treasure them!)

Half an hour later I had my keys in hand and driving home with Laura’s purse, as she left it behind. I dropped it off to her at Urgent Care. She was getting her ankle x-rayed. She was crying. She told me later she was crying because she was worried she would have to miss the Wig Out, not worried about her ankle. I told her not to worry! We got this. Stay home, rest up and see how you feel tomorrow night. Side note – She also laughed and said thank God all the alcohol for the event and raffle was not in her car!

Day of the Wig Out. We arrived at the crack of dawn to set up and there were all my trusty board members and husbands helping to set up. Our SOS for volunteers came through. National Charity Leagues chapters came out to help in every direction! And of course, Laura in pain, came out with her husband’s help still wanting to sit and help orchestrate. A couple hours and her pain settled in and that was all the Wig Out she would see that year. Heartbreaking as she put in endless hours and so many beautiful touches, especially to Billie Jo Herberger’s table and our honored guests’ table.

We everyone’s help we pulled off a miraculous task. We were ready to Wig Out by 1:30. I jetted off to do my make-up and put on my galactic costume. While getting ready I realized we had important loose ends to tie up. We lost Laura, who was to attend to every need of our honored guest Mrs. Billie Jo Herberger, her husband Judd and their friends Patsy and Bill. Thank goodness Jessica flew back early. She was gracious, fun, and had serving experience. We quickly switched her away from the raffle to be there for every need for our honored guests and ensure they had a good time. Ashley and her cousin Carrie jumped in to help in every direction and the Ring Raffle. Rayn and Nate jumped in too! Jen held down the Heads or Tails raffle. Our board member’s young daughter, Chloe, jumped into her first official job as raffle girl, when Ashley was pulled away, and she was amazing!

Loose ends and details miscommunicated are part of running a non-profit. I have learned over the years with events, that at this point in the game/gala, you just let the chips fall where they may as there is nothing else to do, make apologies later if necessary and let the WIG OUT begin!

Our guests piled out of cars with extravagant costumes and wigs! Aliens, women and men right out of the Jetsons, astronauts, bedazzled guests head to toe. It fills my heart with joy every year, as I see the smiles from people I have known and loved for years and new excited faces ready for their first wig out! And what better way to greet them but by our beloved photographer Leland Gebarhdt Photography! In addition, we had Paul Gitelson Photography who volunteered his time every year to take candid shots of our guests. They both capture the Wig Out spirit every year. We even had the 501st Legion - the Good and Bad of Star Wars for our guests to enjoy photo opportunities! The energy was incredible!

We then entered the Red Room at the Scottsdale Hangar One that is futuristic without a single decoration, however Karma Event Productions went above and beyond with wonderful space age touches! Our “Wig Out Wanda” was floating in space throughout the room. They are the kindest people to work with for event and they bring their A game every year. Joe Dana, 12 News Anchor and reporter donated his time to Emcee and captain our galactic experience. He was fabulous, and auctioneer Anna Aja lifted the spirits and donations in the room!