By Jennie Wang, FCSN Voices Senior Youth Reporter
To celebrate their 25th anniversary and fundraise for upcoming projects, FCSN held their 2021 Virtual Fundraising Gala, streamed live on Zoom, on Saturday, November 6 from 4-6 p.m. The gala celebrated FCSN’s growth over their 25 years and raised money to support their future renovations and projects.
The event featured montages of important founding moments, educational videos in the history of FCSN, and interactive raffles for Amazon gift cards. With the help of heart touching music, such as FCSN’s theme song “Friends with Dreams,” the gala brought a sense of unity among the attendees. This year’s theme was “Expand Our Dream” — a statement that captures FCSN’s goal to expand their services to new programs and low functioning special needs individuals who may not fit into their typical adult day programs.
The first to speak was former ABC 7 News Reporter Matt Keller, who thanked the audience for their attendance and showed viewers how to donate to FCSN from home. The screen then displayed a compilation of prominent moments from FCSN’s history, such as the groundbreaking ceremony and the grand opening of the Fremont Dream Center in 2003 and 2006, the 2002 Fundraising Gala, and the grand opening of Friends Coffee and Tea in 2018. While these compilations were played, event attendees interacted with one another in the Zoom chat. The event also included fun and interactive games, such as FCSN trivia and raffles.
During the gala, Jim Chiao, FCSN co-chairperson, was spotlighted for his upcoming book titled Friends of Children with Special Needs: Building a Dream Community. His book, which is a compilation of narrative and FCSN Newsletter articles that aims to showcase the history of FCSN, will highlight FCSN’s contributions towards the special needs community and commemorate the efforts of all the presidents, managers, staff, and volunteers who helped establish the reputability of the organization. The book will be available in January 2022 in major bookstores.
Next up was a video compilation of performances from the FCSN Special Needs Talent Showcase, which was a past 2021 competition featuring talented special needs individuals. The competition included vocalists such as Julian Bradford, who performed an impressive rendition of “Granted” by Josh Groban,” as well as pianists, like David Gonzalez who played “Unbreakable.”
The keynote speaker was Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, who commended FCSN’s contributions to the Fremont community. She opened up about the experiences she had with her special needs uncle; “I know that that was something that was very hard for my grandparents at that time… but to know that this type of service is available right now is something… that is critical,” Mei said. The gala featured several short clips from their sponsors, such as the CC & Yuhling Han Foundation and Limin Hu. Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, Scott Lai, also announced his donation of $1,000 to FCSN.
The most prominent theme behind the event was FCSN’s 25th anniversary, but the gala also sought to commemorate the acquisition of FCSN’s new Osgood Center in Fremont as well as FCSN’s reopening after the pandemic. Following the coronavirus pandemic, FCSN was forced to shift to online platforms, and the organization had been operating virtually since the lockdown in March 2020. FCSN has recently opened up with in-person services and volunteer opportunities, and the gala was a celebration for all of FCSN’s clients, staff, families, and volunteers who can now interact with the FCSN community face-to-face instead of through a Zoom screen.
During the virtual gala, a special tribute session was held for the longtime supporters of FCSN who recently passed away. These volunteers were passionate advocates for the special needs community who made profound contributions to FCSN through volunteering their skills and time. These individuals include elementary school teacher Johanna Laird, business leader and community activist Ceclia Chang, music educator Borjen Lin, and physician Dr. John Lu.
Although the gala ran for just under two hours, there was a large amount of effort and organization put into the event behind-the-scenes. In July, FCSN Virtual Fundraising Gala co-chairs Peter Chen and Jason Hwan assembled a committee of 13-14 people in order to begin preparation for the event. Meeting every two weeks, the committee delegated tasks for the planning of the gala, such as going over the agenda, assembling videos and picture clips, and organizing all of the content for the event. A team of volunteers was also designated to handle the technological aspects of the gala, including controlling the Zoom screen and changing the audio for the event. The committee quickly got to work as the date of the event drew nearer: “Starting in September, we had a meeting every single week… We spent a lot of time figuring out the necessary videos and pictures,” Chen said.
The money raised from the gala will be used to install new programs for FCSN, such as a new adult day program in Fremont. “[The current] adult program at the Peralta center is crowded, so we’re going to have another ADP program when the new center opens in 2023, and that will be a better opportunity for the people currently on the waiting lists of this program,” Chen said. They also hope to create programs for dance and computer graphics.
Overall, the gala was a success, and FCSN was able to reach its target goal. “Going forward, we want to … not only adopt more programs, but also serve the minority of the minority individuals,” Hwan said.