Donors ‘Hear the Roar’ and respond

The Panther Foundation celebrated its 10th annual Hear the Roar Gala with record-breaking fundraising efforts Feb. 22.

The sold-out event, held at the Harvest Grill Event Center at the Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids, brought in more than $140,000, which will go to support students in the Spring Lake Park School District.

Bid paddles hit the air when the Panther Foundation asked for direct donations to start an Angel Fund in the district. The Foundation raised $40,000 to support students who are in need, particularly students who require housing, clothing or food. Submitted photos

Bid paddles hit the air when the Panther Foundation asked for direct donations to start an Angel Fund in the district. The Foundation raised $40,000 to support students who are in need, particularly students who require housing, clothing or food. Submitted photos

More than a quarter of the money came from a direct solicitation for donations, something called Fund-A-Need.

Each year, the foundation picks a cause to support with donations from this portion of the evening.

In 2013, the district raised $30,000 to support its Fund-A-Need project, Panther Pantry weekend food packs, which help keep children nourished when they aren’t in school. Three hundred students have benefited from the food packs so far, according to the Panther Foundation.

This year, the foundation elected to establish an Angel Fund to help students who are in need, particularly students who require housing, clothing or food.

“Some kids dream about princesses or horses or vacations with their families. Some kids dream about driving a race car or climbing to the top of a mountain or winning the big game,” a child’s voice rang out in a video presentation shown before the Fund-A-Need ask. But, the child continued, “some kids dream about sleeping in a warm bed or having warm clothes or shoes without holes. Some kids wish they didn’t need to sleep in their car in the winter. Some kids dream about having a full tummy or wish that their mommy and daddy weren’t sick.”

In Anoka County, 40 percent of children live in poverty, according to the foundation. Approximately 80 families in District 16 are homeless each year, and more than 2,000 students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Attendees heard this message and pledged $40,000 to contribute to the brand new Angel Fund.

The cause “definitely struck a chord with our community,” said Colleen Pederson, director of community education and one of 16 on the Panther Foundation Board. “It’s amazing.”

Silent and live auctions brought in additional funds.

Experiences on the auction block were wide-ranging: Several best-seat-in-the-house tickets to Minnesota sporting events were up for grabs. Bidders vied for vacation packages with destinations as close as northern Minnesota and as far as warm Acapulco, Mexico. The foundation auctioned off a unique opportunity to tour the Anoka County Sheriff’s Headquarters, priceless, as well as LASIK eye surgery from North Suburban Eye Specialists, valued at $3,400, and so much more.

The foundation will celebrate the evening’s success for the next week or so, according to Pederson, but soon after, planning will commence for the 2015 Hear the Roar Gala.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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