Submitted by The Rotaract Club of Guelph
In the face of many challenges and necessary adaptations, the Rotaract Club of Guelph has gone ahead with its annual Spring Gala fundraiser, but with several COVID-safe twists. Initially unsure of how to proceed with their biggest event of the year, the club has spent the better part of the past several months brainstorming how to keep the fundraising spirit alive while staying separated. Passionate to continue the spirit of giving back to the local community, the team elected to host the gala online over Zoom on Friday, March 5, 2021 with the tongue-in-cheek theme of “Mask-querade”. 
All of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN), a community-based initiative to establish a network of mental health hubs that will provide accessible, transforming spaces and vital services to the struggling youth of the Guelph-Wellington community. The IYSN will also utilize an interconnected system to keep each youth’s information, support needs, and goals in one space, making sure each youth only needs to tell their story once. Funds raised from the gala will help allow more youth to have access to safe spaces where they can access peer-to-peer programs, counselling, education and career support, and other mental health support services.
Traditionally, the annual Spring Gala consists of an entertaining evening at the University of Guelph’s Summerlee Science Complex, including a multi-course dinner, silent auction, raffle prizes, fun games, and an infamous jeopardy-style round of trivia. Many of these features survived the adaptation process to a 100% distanced format, including the dinner! Hospitality Services at the University of Guelph enthusiastically helped the club adapt the food portion of the gala to a COVID-safe, pick-up-and-reheat method available to anyone, with a portion of the proceeds directly benefitting the IYSN. Also departing from previous years is the need to purchase a ticket to join; this year anyone is welcome to join the online gala simply by signing up to receive the Zoom link (see below), and attendees can now choose to donate as much or as little as they are financially able to do so. The year has been challenging to say the least, but the Rotaract Club of Guelph hopes to put on a spectacular event to bring a little more joy into the world while raising critical funds for a crucial mental health initiative in their community.