South Carolina is Stronger Together Gala – May 22nd: Interview with SC Board President, Matt Vaughn

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On January 26th, we spoke with South Carolina Board President, Matt Vaughn (left), to learn more about the upcoming Gala event and what makes South Carolina stronger together. See below for our interview with the T1D dad and learn more about how the JDRF community – you – can make an impact on this year’s Gala.


What is your connection to T1D?
My daughter was diagnosed with T1D in Aug of 2016. Since then, my family has been very active in JDRF, mostly with the Walk up until 2018. The bulk of our fundraising efforts were there, which led us to be the top fundraising team for 4 straight years, until this unusual year set us back…and we finished 2nd to a new family.

How long have you been involved with JDRF?
I have been involved since 2016. Originally as a volunteer until I was nominated and joined the board in July of 2018. I assumed the role of board president in July of 2020. During that time, I served on Walk and Gala committees, co-chairing the 2020 Gala.

How important is the Gala to JDRF’s mission?
Very important is the short answer. All avenues through which we are able to raise money for the critical research are vital to the mission. Not only are we able to fundraise, but also educate and advocate for those of our loved ones living with T1.

What is your role with the 2021 South Carolina is Stronger Together Gala?
Our chapter is taking more of a regional approach this year due to the new structure of our chapter. I will help lead our midlands team for the 2021 South Carolina is Stronger Together Gala.

When will the 2021 Gala take place? How will it be different in 2021 compared to 2020 (or even before that) due to the pandemic?
It will be held on May 22, 2021. It will be a virtual event, which is obviously a new challenge. Last year, we had to pivot to the virtual gala, but only after much of the fundraising, procurement and organizing had already taken place. This year, we have to go into it knowing that there wont be an in person event, and understand the challenges we may face due to those restrictions.

What are your immediate needs for the event?
We are currently working on sponsorships and procurement of items. I think it is the easy thing for people to do…ask. I always say, if you don’t ask, you won’t know. There are certainly other logistical items being thought through as far as the production goes, but we have a good feel for that and it helps that we have Megan who did this as well last year.

Will there still be a silent auction and live auction?
Yes…we will participate in both. We are planning a great evening that we are hoping will be fun for anyone who attends.

Can people donate items for the auction?
Absolutely….we would love to have great items for auction. We are aiming for less is more, meaning we are hoping to have quality over quantity.

What are the challenges of hosting a Gala during COVID times?
For us, it is is the lack of personal touch. In the south, we like events and parties. It helps people get excited for a night of fun and is a memorable experience. It is sometimes hard to get sponsors on board, knowing the event isn’t in person.

An important part of past Galas that drove attendance was the social interaction – catching up with friends, eating, drinking, and dancing. How do you hope to address that issue this year?
Looking at doing some sort of VIP hosted parties throughout the state. We are still working on how that would work, but it would be events at homes, with limited people.

There is usually a need for volunteers for the Gala. Will there be a similar need this time?
We could always use help. But this year there will be very little need for boots on the ground like usual on the day of the event. We need help procuring auction items, connecting us with possible sponsors, and serving on the Gala Committee

How can people help out this year? How can they contribute to making the event a success?
Talk about it. Let people know that the Gala hasn’t died and we can still have a good time, raise a bunch of money and support those living with T1D.

Knowing that COVID has had a huge impact on funding for all nonprofits, not just JDRF, what would you say to those who have the capacity to give at this time?
The need for a cure is no different now than it was before COVID. You could say it is even greater due to the risks a T1 experiences with COVID. There is still critical research that needs to be done to push forward cures to T1.

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