The Westfield Youth Assistance Program’s goal of raising $100,000 at its Westfield Mayor’s Yellow Tie Gala seemed unlikely because of having to go virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“2020 was a year like none we have ever experienced before,” WYAP Board President Janelle Campbell said. “We began the year planning for a revamped Yellow Tie Gala to benefit Westfield Youth Assistance Program. When the pandemic hit, our plans came to a screeching halt once we realized gathering in large groups would not be safe.
“We developed a virtual solution and launched a 10-hour fundraiser that was hosted at Cambria Hotels.”
WYAP, which was formed in 2009 to serve as early an intervention advocate for kids ages 3-17 who are facing challenging life situations, partnered with local restaurants and conducted Facebook live feeds every 30 minutes, either from its home base at Cambria or one of the partner restaurants.
“This allowed the community to still be involved in a socially distanced environment, and we accomplished our goal of raising over $100,000 in those 10 hours,” Campbell said. “The event was a smashing success and we learned a lot through the process about raising funds virtually.”
The gala raised $105,590 by the time donations were cut off Dec. 31, 2020. The final results were available in January.
Westfield Chamber of Commerce Director Steve Latour, who is on the WYAP board, said for the first time there were donation requests mailed to 15,000 residents, so those donations kept coming in.
“The previous year (WYAP) only raised $64,000, so it was great to see response from the community during these tough times,” said Latour, who becomes WYAP president in June.
The 2021 Yellow Tie Gala is to be an in-person and virtual event Oct. 8 at The Bridgewater Club.