You never know how a desire to help can take on a life of its own. Ten years ago, Linda Jones, president of Area Rent-Alls in Westminster, Colo., decided it was time for her to do something that would benefit the community that has supported her rental business since its founding in 1962.
“I felt it was time to start giving back to my community, so I looked for a charity that would be a good fit with my business,” she says. She chose the Colorado Special Olympics because she has employees and friends with family members who have participated in this competitive athletic event.
“The first year, I put about $3,500 into advertising for a Halloween Monster Bash. Unfortunately, we didn’t make much money. We were new to this. We learned from this event,” Jones says.
The next couple of years, she continued with the Halloween Monster Bash, decided to forego the advertising and use more word of mouth. “I belong to a dance group. The group participated in the Monster Bash wedding and we danced to the song ‘Thriller.’ It was great,” she says. Even better, the event began raising money.
Each year, the event grew. Halloween became too busy of a time at the rental business, so Jones, her family, some employees and a crew of loyal supporters changed the October Halloween Monster Bash to a February Mardi Gras Bash.
“By the fourth year, our event really took off,” Jones says. “We started selling tables. We had the Special Olympians come in and even crowned a king and queen of the court. We had a costume contest, a mask contest and a face-painting contest. It became so big that we had
to hold the event in a hotel.”
This past Feb. 25 marked the 10th anniversary of this fundraiser. Instead of a bash, Jones and crew held a Mardi Gras Ball.
“We had about 550 people attend. We recruited $5,000 sponsors. We had a VIP reception before the gathering for all sponsors who gave $1,000 or more. Our Special Olympians were in tuxes and dresses and everyone received crowns,” she says.
“We had a live band, two Broncos cheerleaders, two Miss Teen Colorado winners and had Broncos Ring of Fame linebacker Randy Gradishar signing footballs. My company did the staging, the backdrops, helped with decorations, provided the audio-visual equipment and brought in a helium tank for the helium balloons that were sold for $20, $50 and $100 each. Each balloon had a paper note inside listing a specific prize. We also had silent and live auctions that were packed with items donated by area businesses. We are still counting all of the money, but it looks like we raised between $65,000 and $68,000 for Special Olympics,” Jones says.
For Jones, all of the hard work and planning that start in July and continue until the day of the event are worth it “when you watch their faces. There is so much love. It just warms your heart,” she says.
Having a successful event that benefits the community is what Jones always wanted. “This was my hope. I really wanted to bring in the money for a special charity,” she says, noting that she is thrilled it has become such a successful fundraiser. “It gives you such a good feeling the night of the event. Everything comes together and everyone is there for Special Olympics.”
Jones will take a few months off and then, along with her family, longtime employee and community volunteers, will start planning next year’s event — always looking at ways to improve and make it an even bigger and better event than the previous year.
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of the ARA Foundation’s spotlight on philanthropic efforts of those within the equipment rental industry. If you would like to share your story about how you give your time and talents to help others, send an email to Jenni Venema, ARA Foundation director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include details on how you, your company and your employees volunteer in your community. Pictures also are welcome.