Bash for Buddies a fundraising bonanza, raises more than $1 million |

Bash for Buddies a fundraising bonanza, raises more than $1 million

The Buddy Program’s annual Bash for the Buddies event brought in over $1 million for the program earlier this month.

This year, the theme for the July 8 event was “Mardi Gras in the Mountains,” featuring a live concert by Big Sam’s Funky Nation from New Orleans. The Merry Go Ranch, home of event hosts Gail and Lenny “Boogie” Weinglass, was decorated and catered to match the theme.

“We had feedback from a number of people that it was the best bash they’ve attended,” said Kathryn Sansone, the Buddy Program’s development director.

The Buddy Program aims to “empower youth through mentoring experiences to achieve their full potential” through the four programs it runs in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Woody Creek, Basalt, Carbondale and Rifle, according to Sansone. The most prominent program pairs adults with local youth to provide mentorship several times per month. Other programs include a school-based program with adult volunteers and a peer-to-peer program where high schoolers mentor elementary and middle school students. 

The Buddy Program’s newest development is the LEAD Program, a year-long group mentoring program that focuses on teaching high-schoolers outdoor leadership skills and building mentor relationships. Students go on weekend outings, as well as attend in-class sessions in Basalt and Rifle.

“They are the heart of this organization, the volunteers and the youth that we serve,” Sansone said.

The Bash for the Buddies is the program’s largest fundraiser of the year, bringing in more than half of the Buddy Program’s annual fundraising goal of $1.8 million. The event brought in over $500,000 through the paddle raise auction, in addition to the proceeds collected from ticket sales.

“It’s a very important part of our fundraising each year,” Sansone said. “We were not anticipating bringing in this much at the event, and so we are so thankful to our donors that they were so generous and believed in the mission of the organization.”

This year, the event was smaller than it has been in the past, with 350 guests at the sold-out outdoor event rather than the typical 500. The change came after a scaled-down event last year due to COVID-19. 

“We decided to keep the smaller structure, and we are seeing that that is actually working for us,” Sansone said. “It was a little more intimate; it allowed people to talk to everybody, and we were really excited.”

The Buddy Program’s next goal is to recruit more male volunteers and volunteers from the midvalley area, according to Sansone.

“The more people within the community we have involved, the more our organization thrives and the more the youth thrive,” Sansone said. “The volunteers are the reason we meet our mission.”

Anna Meyer is an editorial intern at The Aspen Times this summer. She will be a sophomore at Vassar College in the fall.


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