Learning Grove’s Gala in the Grove goes virtual

What to do when everyone is social distancing at home? Go virtual!

With the onset of COVID-19, Learning Grove chose to take its first annual Gala in the Grove online, raising $123,000 to support high-quality early learning and education in Greater Cincinnati.

CEO Shannon Starkey Taylor, Board President Lori Zombek and COO Patti Gleason

Throughout the week of March 23, Learning Grove shared video messages on social media from CEO Shannon Starkey-Taylor, COO Patti Gleason and Board President Lori Zombek. One highlight featured a special message from emcee Bob Herzog of Local 12 in a performance of “Safety Dance” by the group Men Without Hats. Thousands of likes, comments and shares of the videos took place throughout the gala that honored Charity in Action awardee Rick Hulefeld, founder and past president of Children, Inc. The virtual event also included an online auction and paddle raise.

Emcee Bob Herzog, anchor at Local 12, sent a personal message to attendees.
Charity in Action Awardee Rick Hulefeld recorded a heart felt message to the Learning Grove community.

“The generosity and flexibility of our sponsors and supporters were overwhelming. We are especially grateful to our presenting sponsor, the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, who supported our quick pivot to this online approach,” Starkey-Taylor said.

Board President and event chair Lori Zombek recording her welcome video

“In these difficult times, as in the best of times, Learning Grove is committed to the well-being of our children, our families, and our community. We are proud to be a part of the web of caring that will allow this special region to emerge stronger as the result of community-wide compassion and collaboration,” she said.

CEO Shannon Starkey-Taylor hosted an at-home gala with her family.

Learning Grove formed Jan. 1 from the merger of Cincinnati Early Learning Centers and Children, Inc. The new entity nurtures children of all ages to be ready for lifelong success through high-quality educational experiences, and through support programs for families across Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio.


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