Stakes were rising, casino chips were flipping, and cards were folding for many of those on hand wearing their poker faces the evening of Saturday, March 3, during the Frankfort School District 157-C Education Foundation’s second annual Casino Night & Dinner.
The event, held at The Odyssey Country Club in Tinley Park, was designed to raise funds to support the organization’s mission to provide supplies and resources above and beyond what the District is able to offer. This year’s fundraiser carries on the casino format first established in 2017.
“For years, we were hosting it as just an auction, silent auction, live auction and raffle [drawing,] and we saw our attendance dwindle off over time,” said Carrie Nagle, president of the Frankfort School District 157-C Education Foundation. “We thought, ‘Let’s reinvent it. Let’s shake it up’. So, some of the foundation members said, ‘Hey, let’s try a casino night’. We did it last year, and we doubled our attendance.”
Highlights throughout the evening for the guests included dinner, live and silent auctions, and casino games.
Last year, 435 guests attended the foundation’s Casino Night & Dinner. The event this year brought in 424 attendees.
“We’re excited that it seems to be a formula that works,” Nagle said.
The foundation went into the event wanting to draw in a bigger crowd to the venue.
“It seems like [with] a casino night, it gives a lot of guests something to do,” Nagle said. “In the past, the teachers, their husbands are like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go. It’s just a silent auction.’ Now that there’s gaming and fun, it’s involved a lot of people in the community.”
Guests of note on hand for the foundation’s Casino Night & Dinner were Frankfort Mayor Jim Holland and his wife and Will County Board District 2 candidate Keith Ogle and his wife.
A number of area businesses helped sponsor this year’s fundraiser.
“A lot of the families are donating and local businesses, so we look it as sort of a community effort,” Nagle.
The Education Foundation is all parent-led, and they all have students in Frankfort School District 157-C.
“We volunteer, and all the money we raise through hot lunches throughout the school and then this our big event goes to teacher-funded grants,” Nagle said. “All the money we raise, the teachers then in turn fill out grants for things they’d like in their classroom that the District budget doesn’t allow for. So, a lot of it is innovative things that just aren’t in the parameters. It could be things like stability balls for the reading tables or fidget desks.”
Nagle said a lot of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs the District spearheads don’t have other funding sources.
“We’ve been able to provide supplies, moveable furniture,” she said. “Because the goal of the District is to move into 21st century learning, so our charge from Dr. [Maura] Zinni, the superintendent [of schools] is it’s less about structured lecture and classroom, it’s more about collaborative thinking.”
The Education Foundation recently redesigned the libraries at Chelsea Intermediate and Hickory Creek Middle schools to make the furniture more movable and accessible, Nagle said. The spaces are less about books and more about interactivity.
Through the fundraiser and hot lunches, the Education Foundation is able to raise more than $100,000 every year. The funds are granted out annually for the District to use.
“The goal is to grant every penny that’s raised each year,” Nagle said. “Dr. Zinni works with her teaching staff to understand, ‘Okay, where is the curriculum moving, and what are the needs for next school year?’ So, we’ll receive their grants in March/April after this event. We meet as a Education Foundation, and we decide which grants we are in favor of and we’re going to approve.”
The Education Foundation is currently made up by 25 women who all donated their time to make this year’s event possible.
“As parents we know it benefits our children, our teachers and our community, and better schools means better home property values, so it’s a win-win for everybody,” Nagle said.