Cashbah is an annual event held to raise money to support SLUH’s need-blind admissions.
“From the day that (Father Bailey) conceived it, the goal had always been, let’s ensure that every boy of ability from the greater St. Louis community has the ability to come to SLUH if they qualify. That’s what it is about,” said President Alan Carruthers. “Admissions is need-blind, and if we are going to be need-blind you better have the resources to make that happen. We have to fundraise that money. So some of that is benefactors from an annual fund, and some of that is Cashbah.”
All of the proceeds from the auction go toward financial aid to help students attend SLUH. The auction raises more money for aid than any other SLUH fundraiser. Cashbah required two days of setup and lots of help from staff and parents. The night of the auction flowed seamlessly, packing the Si Commons with 760 attendees and selling 40 live and around 200 silent auction items.
The flawless execution of such a large-scale event took months of organizing. Planning for half a century of Cashbah: The Golden Gala began last summer, when Cashbah co-chairs Nicole Nester and Aura Quinn assembled 33 committees and planned how they were going to follow up the extravagant 2018 Cashbah Bicentennial Ball.
“They blew it out of the water last year because it was Mr. Laughlin’s last year, and it was the 200th party,” said Nester. “We were kind of concerned about having to go back to a ‘normal’ Cashbah year, but a special thing that we tried to do that was nice about this year was being able to honor many of the past chair people who have organized and attended Cashbah for so long in the 50th year.”
The Golden theme also created an aesthetic which was present in all aspects of the night and set the 50th auction apart from previous galas.
“Everything we did had golden in it,” said Nester. “We tried to play on that theme and were trying to weave that into all of Cashbah.”
Lots of meticulous planning and care were put into securing gold-themed items such as the Golden Retriever and Golden Doodle dogs and the ‘Golden Gala surprise’ item of the night, a signed Paul Goldschmidt Jersey. The Golden Ticket raffle, which was a play on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, also raised money for the event and played with the golden theme. Other small details, like topping the desserts with gold flakes and making the invitation covers gold, tied the entire event together and displayed how much careful effort the planning committees put into making the Golden Gala special.
The other main attractions of the night that brought in lots of money were some of the non-golden, high priced items that were all donated by alumni and parents. Vacations ruled the night, with destinations ranging from tropical Cabo San Lucas and Turks and Caicos to urban destinations—a New York trip including a Cardinals-Mets game and tours of the city. Concerts ranging from Cher to Ariana Grande were also put up to auction alongside custom SLUH Fleur de Lis coolers and dinner cooked by President Alan Carruthers’ wife, who is a chef.
“The silent auction can range from a gift certificate to a trip to a vacation home,” said Director of Annual Giving John Penilla. “The live auction is mostly more unique items, trips or experiences that our generous donors help us get, betting that you can’t just go and find online.”
Nester and Quinn did not organize the Gala all by themselves. Many SLUH parents gave their talents and time to Cashbah in order to make it such a success. Mom and graphic artist Jennifer Kelly spent hours designing the invitations, formatting ads, and creating the style and imagery for the large auction book that everyone in attendance received.
“She gave all of her talent to this out of the bottom of her heart,” said Nester. “I was amazed.”
Other SLUH moms helped with data entry, supplying items, securing sponsors, and getting student volunteers.
Lolly Frillman, with the help of Director of Food Service Consultants Ms. Kathy Hylla, was in charge of organizing the student and parent volunteers who serve dinner, bus tables, and help with bidding.
“The SLUH community suits up and shows up when it matters most,” said Frillman. “The volunteers help me accomplish my goals and make me look good because they care about taking responsibility and doing service.”
Student volunteers interacted directly with attendees and donors, and shared their stories with alumni who continue to show their support for SLUH after so many years.
“It was fun to see that so many people care about the students at SLUH and that they are willing to donate their money to help many students attend,” said junior Michael Gordon.
Along with the moms, SLUH staff spend lots of time planning as well. Staff in the third floor Advancement offices dedicated a lot of their time to the efforts leading up to the auction day, working closely with the co-chairs and bidding company to ensure the event went smoothly. The maintenance staff, headed by Director of Environmental Services Jeff Fields, helped setup and clean up run smoothly.
“There are just so many people who invested months of work leading up this,” said Carruthers. “From our parent co-chairs to the advancement staff in collection sponsors and working so hard to assist with setup, as well as our incredible environmental services staff, and the outside and inside maintenance staff who put in hours of hard work to put this thing together and take it all down.”
Without the generous support of the SLUH community, however, Cashbah would not be the grand event that it is. In the live 15 minute Fund-a-Need segment of the night, where contributions were asked to be given out of the kindness of the attendees’ hearts, donors raised over $300,000, for a Fund-A-Need total of $420,000, which, added onto the money that the raffle, tables, sponsorships, and auction items made, totals for a preliminary estimate of $1.2 million made on the night.
“I was super proud of St. Louis U. High and all of their supporters—how committed they are to a socioeconomically diverse school,” said Carruthers.
“We are very pleased,” said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Melissa Jones. “I am always humbled by and incredibly grateful for the generosity of this community.”