Summer 2020 was to be my tenth summer of running the Hancock-French Woods Arts Alliance (HFWAA) where we were looking forward to another banner year and celebrating an entire decade of increasing successes.
Due to COVID-19, and the overwhelming internal and external obstacles it presented, came the eventual devastatingly sad news that French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts had to cancel their summer sessions. Because HFWAA relies on the summer fundraising events geared towards French Woods vendors as sponsors and families with campers as participants, we knew that what came next was the ensuing realization that our HFWAA fundraising could be reduced to almost zero.
Looking back, this past school year we afforded a record 22 college students “last chance” funding of almost $200,000 for either tuition or room and board with more worthy applications coming in for the 2020-2021 academic year.
What happened next, was that with much regret, I wrote to each of our beneficiary students that not only was their HFWAA funding in jeopardy but even with some alternate fundraising ideas in mind, I urged them to search for other funding sources to replace their HFWAA scholarship. Whether to turn to their parents for additional help and ask them to stretch some more or to explore the possibility of increased financial aid or supplementary loans through their school’s financial aid department or sadly for a few where those options were not viable, there was the necessity to drop out of school for a year.
Having imparted all that - we are working very hard to find replacement events that could work during this physically distant yet still possibly social- albeit virtual time. I am apprehensive and trust that it could be difficult to find corporate sponsors as businesses and families have suffered economically too. We all know that pay cuts and furloughs and terminations have been rampant. So even with our plans for virtual fundraising, I do not know many prospective and past donors that will have discretionary fund to donate to HFWAA.
Tough situations are what we have. I am privileged to be almost a second mother to many of these incredible kids, so apprehension aside, I cannot willingly accept defeat in the name of COVID-19.
Looking forward, the HFWAA summer plans include a virtual 4K Race for the Arts that will allow us to reach out to the further French Woods community with the ask that everyone – alums, parents and extended families and staff SHARE – using Facebook, Instagram and whatever platform or means possible to ask others to participate. Further during the summer, we will be hosting a virtual gala and telethon, that will include notable guests and performers. We will again hold the raffle, but this time with a first prize that is monetary. Please stay tuned for information regarding all of the previously mentioned virtual events.
Our world has changed, but we are still here. You are critical to our success. You can make a difference. These kids, our kids are counting on us, now more than ever.
Very Truly Yours,