International Women’s Day is March 8, but you can celebrate a day early with Girls Inc. of Madison at its gala dinner and celebration on March 7 at Overture Center for the Arts.
Madison365 is proud to be the media sponsor of the event. Tickets for the event are on sale now.
Goodman Community Center is the Greater Madison affiliate of Girls Inc, a national program of empowerment for girls aged 6 to 18 that aims to “focus on the development of the whole girl, supporting, mentoring, and guiding girls in an affirming, pro-girl environment,” according to the program’s website. “Here, girls learn to value their whole selves, discover and develop their inherent strengths, and receive the support they need to navigate the challenges they face.”
“It’s a wonderful program that provides national evidence-based, research-based curriculum,” says Jon Lica, Corporate Giving Manager at Goodman Center. “Girls Inc’s mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. However, it’s difficult to get national funding for this program, so we have to do a lot of fundraising at a local level to support our program.”
That’s especially true as the Girls Inc program has expanded beyond the center to 23 sites across the Greater Madison area, where it now serves and supports about 800 girls. Which is one reason the Goodman Community Center instituted this International Women’s Day celebration as a major fundraiser four years ago.
The effect of the program becomes evident pretty quickly, says Goodman Center Executive Director Becky Steinhoff.
“When we work with girls in Girls Inc. for a longer period of time versus newer girls, you can see a change in the way they carry themselves, their confidence, their ability to manage their frustrations,” Steinhoff says. “It really empowers them and lifts them up and makes them feel and recognize their importance. It’s important for girls in general and it’s important for girls of color and low income girls particularly, because often they are marginalized and not listened to or respected as much.”
About 100 of those girls will be present at the dinner, so donors and other community members can get to know them and see the impact of their donations firsthand — and maybe be inspired to get even more involved.
“One of the great things about this event is that there will be plenty of great opportunities for attendees and guests to actually interact with our girls,” Lica says. There’ll be about 100 Girls Inc. girls and some of the staff and even some of their parents and guardians as well. They’ve been working on all these cool projects all winter long for this event. During the reception hour, you’ll have an opportunity to do the photo booth with the girls, to make buttons with empowering quotes on them and do other interactive activities. You get a chance to meet with them, learn about who they are, where they come from, what they do in the program. That’s kind of a unique element to it. There aren’t many galas or fundraising events where you actually have the people who benefit from the programs right there enjoying it with you.”
“When we started this event, the primary purpose was appreciating girls and understanding and building relationships between girls and volunteers and donors,” Steinhoff says. “A huge part of what makes Girls Inc. work is the mentoring aspect of it. If girls are showing interest in something, we recruit strong women and hopefully women of color who can come and show them what career they’re in, or share hobbies in whatever it might be. This dinner is an opportunity for women to walk away and go, ‘Wow, these girls are amazing. I want to be part of this by volunteering or sharing my talents as well as my treasures.’”
In addition to the chance to interact with the girls, attendees will be treated to performances by photographer Eunique Jones Gibson and hip-hop artist Zhalarina Sanders as well as a keynote address from American Family Insurance Chief Marketing Officer Telisa Yancy, who in 2016 was named both one of the 44 most influential African Americans in Wisconsin by Madison365 and one of the nation’s most powerful African Americans by Ebony magazine.
“Telisa Yancy is an absolute powerhouse, and Eunique Jones Gibson will be presenting for her third consecutive year,” Lica says. “She is a visionary for her photography and her constant creation, and we’re so happy that this has become a favorite event of hers to participate in. Zhalarina Sanders, who formerly worked at the Goodman Community Center, who is also the executive director at the JVN Project at the University of Wisconsin, is just a phenomenal young talent. We couldn’t be more excited about the lineup we have this year for our event.”
Tickets for the event are on sale now. Individual tickets are $60 and a table is $500.