Party with a purpose

A group of incredible CARE for AIDS supporters recently hosted a party with purpose called RE/PROM. The party was a Valentines Day prom do-over for adults, all with the goal of raising money to support the CARE for AIDS center in Kariobangi. We sat down with Ashley Nolan, the team lead for the event, to get some insight into their planning process:

How did you first get involved with CARE for AIDS?

My husband (Jon), our eight-year-old son, and I went to Kenya in September of 2013 with the goal of finding one or two organizations we could partner with long-term. We visited five or so different groups while were in Kenya. We prayed, asked a lot of questions, and tried to sift through the emotions we felt while facing so much need. There are so many opportunities to write checks, but we wanted something more.

We brought our son on his first trip ever on an airplane, across continents, because our desire is for our family to live for something bigger than ourselves. We felt like we found the perfect partner in CARE for AIDS. Out of eight organizations I had visited on a prior trip to Uganda, and the five we visited during our trip to Kenya, CARE for AIDS is the organization we decided to invest in long-term.

The mission resonated with us, particularly because of the emphasis on orphan prevention. We are an adoptive family, and while we could find no further joy than walking with other families through that process, there just aren’t many out there that have taken that step. So, while adoption is so huge for us, we realized that orphan prevention is the best long-term strategy and something we really want to put our time and our resources behind.

We had the opportunity to do some home visits with former and current clients, and were so impressed by the Kenyans running each center. They were loving and kind while also very firm when they needed to be. I was truly seeing the Gospel lived out in a way I have only seen a handful of times in the U.S.

How did you decide to involve your friends and community in supporting the Kariobangi Center?

My husband, Jon, has an incredible gifting in leadership. He was the one who envisioned us creating a leadership team that would rally together for something with an eternal impact. Our church does small group multiplication, and while we love the model, we are always sad at the end of two years to split our small group up. This team is made up of family and friends we have met through those groups.

We started by setting up dinners to cast vision for what we wanted the group to be, and asked people to pray about becoming a part of it. We truly thought half of the people would be on board because of what we specifically asked of them personally, and what we were asking them to do long term. We were shocked when almost every person wanted to join the team!

We decided that each person would be responsible for donating a certain amount of money on a monthly basis and also raising a certain amount of financial support monthly. Your heart seems to follow your money, so if we couldn’t get financial buy-in we figured people wouldn’t stick around for too long. Plus, it is a challenge to ask others to support something close to your heart, BUT, what is at stake is so precious.

Tell us about the idea for re/prom…how did you come up with it?

ReProm was an idea by my brother-in-law, Matt. He is incredibly creative and high energy, and also a great leader. While he was living in Florida, he used to host dance similar dance parties, so he had the idea of doing one of those here to benefit the Kariobangi center. With a team of very creative women who desire romance out of a Valentine’s Day party, it morphed into a more deluxe version of the original idea.

What was the hardest part of planning this event?

Probably the biggest challenge was that, while everyone on the team started as good friends of ours, they were not all good friends on their own. They put an incredible amount of trust in Jon and me to buy into something like this with people they hadn’t done life with before. While I think it was a challenge at first learning to trust each other to come through when we delegated responsibilities, to stay in budget and to do things with excellence, in the end it was an incredibly unifying experience.

The other challenge was simply the time involved. We all have kids, family and jobs that we are responsible for and we were planning and event that required massive amounts of time and energy.

What was your favorite part of the planning process?

We had some fun meetings – brainstorming and laughing together as a team to dream up some of the things we did. Prom King and Queen was Joni’s idea and that was a very special part of the evening. I think I mostly enjoyed the process of setting up and seeing this black recording space turn into something magical and romantic. It was so neat to be part of the process.

What is a favorite moment from re/prom…any great stories that came out of the evening?

My favorite part was being there! I love dressing up once in awhile and feeling fancy, so that was really fun. At the beginning of the night, when people started coming in, and we were already blasting music and dancing together as a team in celebration that we had actually pulled this off, there was this moment of, “people are showing up!” They trusted us enough to buy tickets and their own fancy dresses and corsages. Some rented limos and hotel rooms to make it a big date night. I can almost feel the adrenaline rushing back to me even as I remember those moments. It was so special. Some of us on the team aren’t even big dancers and we were so pumped up from everything – we were breaking it down the whole night!

My other favorite part was seeing each person on our team take ownership of the event and use the skills they have to make each part of the night so great! One cool story was that one couple who came were unable to attend their high school prom, and they actually won Prom King and Prom Queen for the evening!

What’s next for you and your team?

We are already planning for ReProm for 2016! We also have our next event coming up on April 25. It is called the East Cobb Red Run. It’s a 5k race we are putting on with a 1 mile fun run. You can get all the details We are really excited about that, and have some big runners on our team, so that should be blast! They told me if I run, I don’t have to be there at 5am, so I’m thinking about running my first race ever!

What advice would you give to other young couples wanting to get involved with CARE for AIDS in a creative way?

Wow, that’s a good question. I would tell them to be brave and trust God to work out the details. When you get on board with caring for the orphan, the sick, the widow – He shows up EVERY time.

Throughout the first few months of trying to get a group together, truthfully, I kept wanting to bail. It would have been easier I think to send out letters, make some calls and ask for donations, because we were already so passionate about the cause and the people. We had seen the faces of joy on the clients who had graduated the program, but we also saw many waiting to start the program, some on the brink of death. The extra energy required to cast vision and pour out our hearts to people who maybe did not have our same passions required a lot of focus and vision (vision that my husband had!). God has truly multiplied our effort and has moved to create this team. I think ReProm helped the team become more focused. It was a unique opportunity to see everyone leverage their strengths and I think it gave the team a greater sense of purpose. Some people who were hesitant to visit Kenya are now more motivated to see the faces of the people they are working for. It’s been incredibly humbling to be part of something bigger than we imagined.