A Good Time for a Good Cause

 

By Brendan Sullivan '06
 

The queue to The Mayflower Foundation's Summer Gala in Boston was out the door"a line of twenty-somethings in summer dresses and sports jackets. Inside the event tent a cover band played while hoards of people hit the dance floor and the two bars. Despite the festive atmosphere, these people weren't there just to party. By night's end the gala had raised $10,000 for a local charity, with every penny coming from the young partygoers, mainly Colby graduates from the past five years.

The Mayflower Foundation is the brainchild of Jason Werlin '00, Kevin O'Brien '98, Rob Webb '01, John Brownell '02, and Alexander Porteous '01, who wanted to serve their community but weren't sure what impact they could have. "With our demographic, we have more time to donate than money to donate, so volunteering time can make a bigger difference than just a monetary donation," O'Brien said.

"Instead of having parties at bars where all the money goes towards drinks and food, we figured why not have a party where our money could go towards helping the community,"
What these five graduates figured out is that it's possible to combine both. After years of attending office parties and friends' gatherings, it hit them: "Instead of having parties at bars where all the money goes towards drinks and food, we figured why not have a party where our money could go towards helping the community," Porteous said. The plan: organize parties for their peers and raise money for charity by selling tickets.

Their idea started to bear fruit in 2003 when the friends threw their inaugural gala to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation, raising enough money to send a child with sickle-cell anemia to Disney World with his family.

Since then the Mayflower Foundation has grown from the five founders to more than 150 volunteers across the country, with charity events held in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco. Finding people to attend the parties (and to pay the average $75 to $100 ticket price) is fairly easy. "We just e-mail everyone we know: friends, friends of friends, whoever. People just show up," O'Brien said. And if you hold it, they will come.

Indeed, many of the partygoers at the 2006 Summer Gala didn't know much about the charity the event benefited; they just knew it was a good cause and would be a good time.

The proceeds were given to New England SCORES, a program that teaches both creative writing and soccer to third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders in 12 Boston public schools.

Though no formal relationship with the College exists, the organization's name, The Mayflower Foundation, was selected to suggest a connection with Colby and also, O'Brien said, because "it sounded credible."

Though important to some, the Colby reference is lost on others. "They just assume we're all descendants of the Pilgrims," O'Brien said.
 
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