Tampa Prep Parents Have a Ball at the First Ever Virtual Gala


A screenshot of one section of the Gala, taken by Elizabeth Harris, senior parent.

Grace Harris

   This Saturday, March 6, Tampa prep parents came together for the much anticipated virtual Gala, the annual parent social night of drinks, dinner, student performances, and a fundraiser auction. While this online version of the event is different from previous years, it was a fun way for parents to stay connected and have a fun evening while raising money for the school.

   Ki Perry, Director of Development, worked with the other members of administration to put on a Gala that was safe but still enjoyable for parents. 

   For her “it was the decision that was difficult,” as Perry “kept hoping that maybe we could find a way to do it in person” but had to balance complicated logistics of a possible outdoors event while ensuring parents felt safe and comfortable.

   After deciding to keep it virtual, her biggest priority was figuring out “how to make it different, how do we make it a little more interesting” than the endless daily Zoom calls people already have for school and work, she said. Because of that, the Gala was held using Signal Wire, a different platform that was more interactive, and parents were put into breakout rooms for socialization.

   While its 6-8:30 timeframe was shorter than previous years, the Gala was packed with events and was composed of “a sponsor pre-party from 6-7pm, a formal program and auction from 7-8pm, and mingling in virtual rooms by grade level from 8-8:30pm,” Perry explained. 

   Even before the Gala began “we were actually ahead in both attendees who have registered and dollars raised by about 40% of our goals and we did not expect that,” she said. The event itself raised $285,000 for the school through ticket sales and the auction of items such as Lightning tickets, a stay at a Cape Cod vacation home, a sunset cruise, artwork, and parking spots.

   The real achievement of the Gala didn’t just come from the money raised, however. The enjoyment of the attending parents was what made it successful.

   Garda Collison, senior parent, “was very skeptical that it could happen” when she first heard about the idea of a virtual gala, but after attending said “it was a lot of fun, it was fabulous”.

    In past years, Collision had always loved “watching the kids singing and performing” and enjoyed this year’s videos of visual and performing arts, STEM students, school athletics, and even alumni. “They were very funny and well done,” she added. 

   She also enjoyed the at-home catering, describing how “it was kind of fun to have it come in that big box like a gift, with a bottle of wine and food and, of course, chocolates,” Collison said.

   For the Gala, Ki Perry wanted to have “people walk away feeling pride for the school and as much of a sense of community that you can in this virtual world,” she explained. It helped the school financially and brought parents together for a memorable night.