It’s a common challenge for the dozens of non-profit agencies in the Fort Wayne area: finding a creative way to raise money. The Salvation Army is no exception.
“We’d done other, smaller scale events in the past like Willy Wonka and Neverland where maybe 200 people attended,” said Jama Smith, Director of Resource Development. “The problem I was finding is that Fort Wayne is saturated with non-profits. Everybody is doing a silent auction, everybody is doing a gala, everybody is doing a golf outing. It was something where we thought, ‘We have to find a different event or else we are not going to stand out.’”
That’s how organizers came up with a completely interactive, all-ages event that appealed to Harry Potter fans everywhere. Next month, they’ll host their fourth fundraiser based on the book series.
“The response from that first one was so huge that we just had to expand it,” Smith said. “The more we did, the more feedback we got from people about what they liked and what they wished they could see. We’ve been working on that ever since.”
Hogwarting for Charity will take place on Saturday, September 14, when the Salvation Army turns its North Clinton Street headquarters into a world of wizards. The event has grown exponentially and gets better every year. As many as 1,300 people are expected to attend the event this time around.
“We could do more, but we want to make sure there aren’t long lines and that people aren’t overcrowded,” Smith said. “We’ve broken it up into a morning session and an afternoon/evening session.”
The first session takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the second from 4 to 8 p.m.
What really sets this fundraiser apart from others is that it’s family-friendly and those who attend get to immerse themselves in the experience.
“Everything from the movie is something that you can do or participate in. Every room is filled with an activity,” explained Smith. “For instance, Ollivander’s Wand Shop where you can pick out and purchase your wand. Ziplines, which is what we call our flying classes. You can get your house photos taken and you can make potions in potion class that are drinkable. You can make dragon eggs.”
Another aspect is that organizers have worked very hard to make the event inclusive.
“We have one block from 3 to 4 p.m. that’s specifically for families who have a child who is on the autism spectrum or has a sensory disorder,” Smith said. “In that hour we turn off all the lighting and the strobe lights and we turn off all the music. We take away all the scary elements that might trigger a meltdown and we also have behavioral therapists there from Great Heights and they’ve set up a sensory room.”
Vital source of funding
Tickets range from just $10 to $60 for the VIP experience. Hogwarting for Charity has become a vital source of funding for the Salvation Army, which helps people in our community in numerous ways. The agency fights hunger by providing food for qualifying families, it supports kids by providing a safe place to gather after school for sports, homework help, and character-building programs, and it helps brighten the holidays for families in need through the Angel Tree and Adopt-A-Family programs.
Perhaps known best for its thrift shops and red kettles, the local chapter of the Salvation Army offers assistance to thousands of people year-round.
The Harry Potter events aren’t the largest fundraiser, but they’re vital when it comes to supporting the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
“We usually raise about $40,000 from this,” Smith said. “Every $10 is a disaster kit for a family in need. Every $25 is a backpack full of supplies. Every $50 feeds a family out of our food pantry. Every $150 makes sure that a family doesn’t become homeless. So when you think about what $40,000 does in the community, and the fact that we have such a bare bones budget, it’s really important.”
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