By Kim Hilsenbeck
Cold, wet weather did not dampen the spirits, or the generosity, of guests who attended the 11th annual Denim & Diamonds gala event on Saturday. In fact, the amount raised – $115,000 – was more than expected by the Hays CISD Education Foundation board members.
Held at the TDS Exotic Game Ranch Pavilion in Creedmoor – the use of the facility is donated by the Gregory family – D&D is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The proceeds allow the foundation to hand out more than $60,000 in grants in recognition of student and teaching achievement and excellence along with several other awards.
“The grant requests must be part of district’s curriculum and follow the campus leadership criteria,” Angie Mendez, foundation executive direction, said in a recent interview. “But most ideas can be written into the grant in a way that supports those objectives.”
Since the first D&D in 2003, the Education Foundation has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to students, teachers and campuses across Hays CISD. According to Holly Raymond, foundation board member, each year, board members hand out $50,000 in Innovative Teaching Grants and $10,000 in Professional Development Grants. There are also Spot Grants of $500 for teachers who may need something for the classroom.
“The innovative teaching grants are a complete surprise,” she said.
Foundation board members get on a bus and go to the different campuses to hand deliver checks to the winners.
“It is the best day,” Raymond said.
But the D&D night was also good, at least judging by the reaction of the 300 guests in attendance.
Dressed in everything from full-length gowns to jeans – and lots of bling – guests enjoyed a catered dinner and open bar. Back Burner Bistro, the catering arm of the Lehman High School Culinary Arts Program taught by Ryan Georgi, provided dessert.
Raymond said a grant many years ago helped kick off the Back Burner Bistro, which is still going strong.
Aside from ticket sales, the D&D event raised additional funds as guests participated in events such as the diamond raffle, Heads & Tails, a ring toss and new this year, a karaoke contest. Jeff Raymond rapped his way to the winning performance.
The winner of the diamond raffle was Karlyn Ellis of Mountain City, owner of Prosper Properties. Benold’s Jewelers donated the half-carat diamond.
There was also a silent auction and a live auction. In the silent auction, items included everything from photography packages to themed baskets donated by each Hays CISD campus to an evening of cooking for 10 with Hays CISD chef Bryant Currie.
During the live auction, guests bid on vacation packages, a San Antonio Spurs Sports package, a VIP graduation package and a custom built AR-15 6.5 Grendel.
After the live auction, D&D guests danced the night away to the sounds of Blue Finger Disco or headed out to the patio (which had portable heaters) for some karaoke.
Mendez said the innovative teaching grants will be delivered to campuses the first week in December.