March of Dimes hosts virtual annual fundraiser with private dining options
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
March of Dimes’ annual fundraising event, Signature Chefs, is still taking place this year, but it’s going to be very different from previous years. The annual event will begin on Nov. 12 with a virtual fundraising event to raise money for the March of Dimes mission, which is to provide financial aid for the research, education, advocacy and support for NICU families. Philanthropic organizations around the country have had to alter the format of their event or cancel the event altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, Signature Chefs would be a large event held at a hotel in downtown Louisville with food from over 30 of Louisville’s premier chefs, culinary auction packages and the experience to learn more about March of Dimes’ mission. March of Dimes decided to move forward with the Signature Chefs event this year, but in a different format than usual. “This is a mission and an organization that is ongoing no matter what our circumstances are, pandemic or not, and we need to continue to fund it, new mothers and new babies who come into the world,” said Angie Henry, the 2020 event chair of Signature Chefs.
Henry has been involved with Signature Chefs the past two years after a friend invited her to the event last year. “The more we learned about March of Dimes, we learned that we have probably, 99% sure, been recipients of these services when our eldest was born. So we wanted to do what we could to continue our support,” Henry said. March of Dimes works on raising awareness and raising funds to support research, education and advocacy programs to help moms have full-term pregnancies, according to their website.
For this year’s event, table sponsors will choose from a list of restaurants where they can have a private dinner at a date they decide. They are allowed to have up to ten people for this unique tasting dinner. “The March of Dimes as a national health organization felt like holding an in-person event wasn’t a responsible move this year, so we pivoted to hold a virtual event on the day of and then we are going to offer table sponsors an event for ten or more people, depending on their level of sponsorship, with individual chefs,” said Stephanie Renner, the board chair of March of Dimes.
Chef Josh Moore, the lead chef at Volare Italian Ristorante, has been the head chef of the Signature Chefs’ event for around 12 years. His role has shifted this year as he’s now focused on getting restaurants involved in the private dinners, and so far, he says restaurants are still excited to be a part of the event. “It’s really just an opportunity to still have the Signature Chef part of the event and still have the restaurants involved in just a different format this year,” Moore said.
Typically, there would be well over 30 chefs committed to the Signature Chefs event, but they’re expecting a much smaller number because of the format change. Currently, they have eight restaurants committed to the event but are hoping to have eight or nine more restaurants committed before the event begins on Nov. 12. “Some of the restaurants might take one table of ten, some might take two or three, whatever they want to do. And those tables won’t always be in at once, so we can kind of coordinate and make it work for the restaurant and the group,” Moore said.
They’re expecting to raise a significant amount of funds for their mission, but they do not expect to raise as much as in years past due to the pandemic. “We have had to adjust what our anticipated fundraising goal is going to be. With that though, we’ve also had some reduced costs because it is going to be a virtual event, so we don’t have items such as the space requirements and cost and staffing cost. So it’s been a switch on both ends, money-saving but at the same time being realistic about the amount of funds we anticipate raising this year in comparison to last year,” said Henry.
Ultimately, the mission of the event is to educate people about how they can help contribute to increasing the opportunities available for mothers and babies to be healthy, according to Renner. Renner also said that the funds raised from this event are significant this year as there’s still a lot of research to be done on how COVID-19 affects women and children.
“March of Dimes is supporting critical research into caring for moms, babies, families and healthcare providers in the face of this pandemic,” said Renner. Renner also touched on the other pandemic facing our country and the importance of “increased awareness of racial inequality in our country around maternal health and the frequency of preterm births.” March of Dimes has created a Health Equity Work Group that is focused on improving the racial inequalities in healthcare for mothers and babies, according to Renner. Funds raised from the Signature Chefs event will go towards funding this workgroup as well.
Moore, Renner and Henry are hoping that next year things will be back to normal, and they can hold the Signature Chefs event as they have in years past. “I think that it’s come to be known as the premier event in town and people enjoy it so much that every year it gets better because people get more and more excited to be there,” said Renner. For now, their focus is on having a successful virtual fundraising event and a fun, private dining experience for table sponsors to enjoy.
For more information on March of Dimes and the Signature Chefs event, visit signaturechefs.marchofdimes.org.