Rwanda genocide survivor Ilibagiza to keynote Evening of Hope gala
By Nissa LaPoint
Evening of Hope
When: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18
Hope and faith amidst a life-threatening war zone will be the focus of Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust’s annual Evening of Hope benefit organized to boost funding for families struggling to pay tuition at Catholic schools.
The gala will include cocktails, auctions, dinner and a speech by Immaculée Ilibagiza, who will share her survival story and experience of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Tickets will be available for the event until Nov. 11. The fundraiser will start at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Grand Hyatt Denver. Other honorary guests will include Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese, Msgr. Thomas S. Fryer, moderator of the curia, and former CBS4 anchor Molly Hughes.
To kick off the night, attendees will enjoy a social hour and silent auction while the St. Rose of Lima School choir provides entertainment. Dinner and a live auction will follow with a video about the organization’s founding fathers, said Justin Zuiker, director of development for Seeds of Hope.
This is Seeds of Hope’s 15th anniversary and the first year it will honor a contributor with the Sister LaVonne Guidoni Award. Sister Guidoni was a founder and strong supporter of Catholic education. This year’s award will be presented to lay Catholic leader Robert Lemming.
“He provided exceptional leadership for us during a terrible recession,” Zuiker said. “He worked tirelessly to make it possible for so many students (to) go to these amazing schools.”
The highlight of the event will be its keynote speaker, Ilibagiza.
“We always strive to provide quality speakers at our gala and she’ll probably be the best we’ve ever had,” Zuiker said. “It’s such an amazing story of faith and survival.”
Ilibagiza will share her experience of huddling silently in a damp bathroom for 91 days while about 800,000 people, including her parents and brothers, were murdered in Rwanda, Africa. She credits her salvage mostly to prayer and a set of rosary beads given to her by her Catholic father before going into hiding.
As the author of the New York Times bestselling book “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” Ilibagiza has become an international speaker on peace, faith and forgiveness.
Those who attend will have the option to donate in a variety of ways, including the Fund the Mission portion of the event, when all donations will be matched by the Children’s Scholarship Fund program.
One student will give a personal account of the benefits they received from Seeds of Hope’s assistance.
“We always highlight students we’ve funded before, so we’re going to have a student from Bishop Machebeuf (High School) talk about their experience,” Zuiker said.
One such recipient of tuition assistance from a donor is 13-year-old Rachel Gonzales, who is an eighth-grader at St. Catherine of Siena School in Denver.
“I’ve been told her learning curve was a little behind so it helps her being in a small class and getting more one-on-one attention because of that,” said Mary Gonzales, her mother, who could not afford tuition after her daughter’s first year in Catholic school. She said Rachel was once very shy and now she’s student class president.
“She thrives in smaller environments,” Gonzales said.
Seeds of Hope’s mission is to raise money for economically disadvantaged children through tuition assistance grants, scholarships, vouchers and the Adopt-A-Student program. To date, Seeds of Hope has given more than $20 million to more than 12,000 students during its last 15 years, Zuiker said. Thirty-six schools have been supported although every year schools with similar economic needs and demographic challenges are added to its benefit list. During the 2011-2012 school year, the organization is directing its tuition assistance to SUN (Schools in Urban Neighborhoods) and Focus-designated schools that are frequently inner-city.
Individual tickets are available for $200 if purchased before Nov. 1. Afterwards, tickets are $300 until Nov. 11. Young Philanthropist tickets are $100. Corporate table sponsorships are available and begin at $3,000. For tickets, call 303-715-3186 or visit www.seedsofhopetrust.org.