By: Katrice Sutherland

Event management students, from left, Marion Dalley, Brittney Recoskie, Kayo Yoshida, Bridget Delabrosil, Ankush Aggarwal, Rebecca Trafford and Mohammad Rashid, celebrate the success of the Masquerade.

Masks disguised the faces of hosts, volunteers and guests alike but could not hide the achievements of six event management students who organized the Masquerade Benefit Gala on March 23.

“The most important thing about being an event planner is not that everything is perfect, but that is looks and feels perfect for the attendees,” said Bridget Delabrosil, one of the student event coordinators.

A common reaction from guests was disbelief that the entire evening had been constructed from a $0 budget.

Attendees were welcomed to the Palace Banquet Hall with paparazzi taking pictures of their festive gowns, suits and face masks. Volunteers collected coats and ushered guests to their seats which were each set with personalized name tags.

Guests mingled with drinks in hand by red lit curtains listening to Alessandra Leake, 22, serenade them on the harp.

They also enjoyed a four-course meal, a Gwen Madiba fashion show featuring her House of Dare 2013 winter collection, a theatrical performance of scenes from Romeo and Juliet, dancing and a number of touching speeches.

Eric Duchesne, the newest Children’s Wish advisory board member, and Clarrisa Kszyston, 17, a student at South Grenville District High School in Prescott, both shared their wish stories and spoke of how the foundation had helped.

Emma Rose—who went through multiple surgeries to overcome optic-nervous hypoplasia, a birth defect which left her practically blind—was granted her wish to sing for a large group of people at the event. Rose, 8, brought everyone in the house to their feet with tears in their eyes singing her rendition of Amazing Grace.

“Tonight is absolutely astounding,” said Max Keeping honorary chair member of the Children’s Wish Foundation. Keeping, who is currently fighting his second bought of prostate cancer, made a surprise appearance at the event.

Lastly, a guest sprung an unexpected proposal on his date.

“The atmosphere was what it was meant to be: a special night to ask a special question,” said Brian Gilson, after he proposed to his new fiancé Katherine Coligan, a thyroid cancer survivor.

The event sold a total of 179 tickets, auctioned off two Madiba dresses from the show and cleared out the silent auction table supported by 74 donors and 21 sponsors from local businesses.

The students exceeded expectations raising over $28,000 toward the program’s new $1 million goal for Children’s Wish Foundation announced earlier this year.

“We already raised about half a million dollars,” said Atlaf Sovani, chair of Hospitality and Tourism.

Students had been working diligently since January to construct the event for their final exam. They were not given a set cash goal but followed basic criteria for their assignment which community business owners graded.

Kathy McGee, one of three commentators asked to judge the event said the music and audio volume was the only detail she would have changed.

McGee commended the course professors for helping students develop their skill sets, and offering a practical outlet for their class-theory.

“They deliver a high quality program,” said McGee. “These students are getting exactly what they need and more.”