The Centennial Area Education Foundation (CAEF) is working to diversify its offerings, all in hopes of reaching different members of the community for a broader impact.
CAEF will launch its first golf tournament July 17 at the Majestic Oaks Golf Club in Ham Lake.
“This gives us a chance to bring in some new eyes and really spread the mission of CAEF, supporting education to build a stronger community,” said CAEF Office Manager Lisa Sellner. “By providing a variety of events, we are building a stronger community of people, of supporters.”
CAEF is a nonprofit organization comprised of volunteers from the community who are dedicated to raising money to enrich students’ experience in Centennial Schools. CAEF’s largest fundraiser is its annual Gala, held in April. Because of the pandemic, this is the second year in which the event has not been able to take place.
In 2020, CAEF board members canceled the Gala and quickly transitioned over to an online auction format. “We were really pleased. We were able to raise just over $10,000,” Sellner recalled. She added that many community members also chose to donate their ticket and sponsorship money to CAEF rather than get a refund. For comparison, the 2019 Gala raised more than $100,000.
Although the plan was to hold the Gala in person this year, board members decided it would be better to postpone the event until 2022. CAEF President Jesse Bentrup explained that the current restrictions and capacity limits would have made it too challenging to host the event this year.
“A lot of our funds come from donations that we get from companies, and to go out and ask for that at time like this, it just didn’t feel right,” he said. “There are other organizations out there that maybe need it more right now. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of the way. If you have got 25 people all asking for money at the same time from the same people, they have to pick.”
Despite a much smaller Gala in 2020 and no Gala at all this year, CAEF was still able to fully fund more than $22,000 in grants to 19 different programs as well as around $15,000 in scholarships to high school students.
“For the short term, for 2020 and 2021, we were able to still meet our grant and scholarship goals for the students and schools,” Sellner explained. “But long term, it was becoming a concern for us. It became necessary for us to start looking at diversifying a little bit and the golf tournament is a great example of that.”
CAEF Vice President Chris Bettinger, who has 30 years of experience in the golf industry, came up with the idea for the golf tournament. He said the CAEF board has talked about the possibility of hosting a golf event for a while, but was always hesitant to pursue the idea out of concern that it would take away from volunteer efforts for the Gala.
“If you want to make money with a golf tournament, you need volunteers; you need people that can round up hole sponsors, raffle items, to work the day of. It takes a lot of people, and the Gala takes up so many volunteer hours,” Bettinger said. “So, this year seemed like a great time to do the tournament.”
Bentrup added, “People want to do something, so why not? We might as well do something because people are hurting for things to do, they are tired of being in their house. I’m looking forward to safely getting people together and getting some social activity going.”
The goal is to attract 100 golfers, or 25 teams of four. However, Majestic Oaks can easily accommodate more, as it has three different courses.
Bettinger’s hope is that the annual event will continue to get bigger and bigger, just like the Gala has. “This is just the beginning. By 2024, this will be a major event. I look forward to that, but we have got to get it started.”
CAEF is also currently planning for a fall event in September or October.
For more information about CAEF or the golf tournament, visit caefoundation.org.
Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com.