Blue & Gold Gala
Bring together some of the most passionate advocates for Kentucky FFA, give them the opportunity to contribute, throw in a little dinner and dancing, and good things are bound to happen.
This year’s Blue & Gold gala at Keeneland was the first event of its kind for Kentucky FFA, but it’s already become a staple on the annual calendars of agriculture influencers across the state.
The evening included current and former FFA members, agriculture business leaders, legislators, and others interested in supporting Kentucky FFA. Guests re-established long standing connections and ignited new conversations about the future of agriculture.
Take for instance Holly Carroll and Lindsey Hecht. Holly and Lindsey met when they were Kentucky state FFA officers in 2002-2003, and have remained close friends, even though life has taken them in geographically different directions.
Lindsey is based near Memphis and leads the mid-south crop protection sales district for the agricultural division of Dow Dupont. Holly, on the other hand, teaches science in Oklahoma. For them, the gala was a trifecta – a way to support Kentucky FFA, reconnect with others who share the same sentiment, and spend a little time together.
“It was like coming home,” said Holly. “My husband and I are always looking for ways to give back to the organization that gave so much to us. We still owe so much to Kentucky FFA. When we saw this event, we realized it could be an opportunity to have fun and support FFA.”
“To know that I’m going to help the FFA Foundation touch more students is unbelievable,” said Lindsey. “And on top of that, to get to spend an evening with one of my very best friends – it was perfect.”
The event was also a huge success as a fundraiser, with a net profit of more than $93,000. Funding from the Blue & Gold Gala, Kentucky FFA Commemorative Toy Tractor sales, and the Blue & Gold Auction at the National Farm Machinery show allows the Foundation to waive gift fees on program-focused donations.
That means when someone donates a dollar to a Kentucky FFA program, every cent of that dollar goes directly into the program. That’s pretty special. Many foundations and charities set aside between 18 and 28 percent of donations for administrative fees.
“This type of event allows us a lot of flexibility to try new things and raise money for big ideas that we think will impact our students across the state for years to come,” said Adam Hinton, chairman of the Foundation.
“Any gift to the Kentucky FFA Foundation helps us accomplish our vision of growing leaders, building communities, and strengthening agriculture,” said the Foundation’s Executive Director, Sheldon McKinney. Sheldon organized the event and came up with a variety of creative ways to capture donors’ attention during the evening.
The gala featured a silent auction where bidders could up the ante directly from their phones, as well as a live auction that included items ranging from dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, to a South African Safari, to an adorable and highly pedigreed Golden Retriever puppy.
Even the band had a tie with FFA – Jericho Woods’ lead singer is Josh Mitcham, a former Kentucky agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.
The entire evening served as a great reminder to those who have been positively impacted by FFA about how much it meant to them, and what they can do to pass along those opportunities to current and future FFA members.
“This was a great event because it brings light to some of the best and brightest,” said Holly, “and it gives it a little sparkle. It’s more than just asking someone to donate – it’s an experience. Everybody knows what they’re coming into, and they can have a great time and be comfortable that they are giving back.”
“This event not only raises money to benefit FFA members and agriculture teachers, it celebrates Kentucky FFA for a wide range of folks across the state,” said Adam. “In the process, we hope to have a fun event and help new partners understand the power of supporting FFA.”
Holly and Lindsey found it so worthwhile that they’ve already marked their calendars for next year and are planning to make it an annual event.
“Working in the ag industry, I’ve come to understand that the world of agriculture is small, even on a national scale,” said Lindsey. “It’s so important to stay connected because everyone in this industry wants to create advocates for agriculture, give back to organizations like FFA, and continue to tell the story of how important this industry is in the global marketplace.”
Next year’s Blue & Gold Gala will be on Saturday, October 13, at the Woodford Reserve Room of Kroger Field. Tickets will be on sale in spring 2018.