Walker Bell Challenge was a Resounding Success

After the pandemic lockdown threatened our plans to gather as a community and raise funds to support the School, Thacher executed a workaround that accomplished both and more.

The covid-19 shutdowns triggered the cancellation or radical redesign of virtually all of the events on Thacher’s spring calendar. Senior Exhibitions took place on line rather than in person. The Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament was canceled. Spring Extra-Day Trips were called off. And so was Big Gymkhana Family Weekend along with the benefit event that is a cornerstone of Thacher’s annual financial aid fundraising. 
In response, Thacher’s Development team came up with a plan to unite the community together virtually, both socially and in financial support of the School: The Walker Bell Challenge. The week-long series of virtual events included opportunities to participate in virtual formal dinners, discussions led by Thacher faculty members, and other online gatherings. 

Clearly, the events answered the community’s desire to connect while also providing an opportunity to support the School in offsetting the unanticipated costs of the coronavirus. Here are some key numbers: 
  • $1.46 million raised to support Thacher’s Annual Fund (more than twice what was raised at last year’s benefit)
  • 1,114 donors (more than five times the number for last year’s benefit)
  • 20 virtual community engagement events 
  • 200 attendees at the “Not so Formal” Dinner 
  • 86 volunteers (23 parents, 11 faculty, 7 students, 45 class reps)
  • 93 percent parent participation ( a historic high)
  • 50 percent alumni participation (on track for 55-57 percent—among the highest in the country)
  • 100 percent trustee participation
  • 90 percent faculty and staff participation 
Director of Annual Giving and Parent Relations Emma Balina confessed that she was “blown away by the participation in this year's Walker Bell Challenge, both in terms of money raised and community engagement. As a new fundraising initiative—and especially as one launching in the midst of a global pandemic—we had no idea what to expect. It was the most powerful display of philanthropy we've ever seen, and truly speaks to the strength of the Thacher family. We are immensely grateful to everyone who helped make this historic effort possible.”

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