Charities share city’s love and appreciation
Lake Havasu City has been called, “home of the London Bridge,” “the personal watercraft capital of the world” and “the most patriotic city in America.” Havasu is also a city filled with givers. Non-profits, churches and school boosters not only provide the icing on the cake, they sometimes provide the main course.
Neighbors Bob McClory and Constant Stoepler put their heads together to come up with an idea that would help the charities and also benefit the community. The Lake Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair was born in 2010. In the last eight years, $850,000 has been raised and donated to local charities. Organizers expect the cumulative total to top one-million next year.
McClory was a London Bridge Rotarian, and Stoepler was a Lion, so they got their clubs involved. Currently, three Rotary Clubs and two Lions Clubs run the Balloon Festival—now its own non-profit—and they are supported by about 1,000 volunteers.
This year the wind grounded the balloons Friday through Sunday, but it didn’t blow away turnout or dampen enthusiasm. That’s because the festival is not only about balloons. “There are other things to do besides balloons,” Day explained. The festival is like having a county fair in your own backyard--entertainment all day, live music, a golf tournament, a fun run, 180 merchandise vendors and 30 food vendors.
Despite the weather, the net revenue was about the same as last year—$150,000 was distributed to veterans’ organizations, food banks, soup kitchens, Meals on Wheels, college scholarships and the K-12 Foundation.
Monica Hall is a board member and treasurer of the K-12 Foundation. “Our purpose is to support teachers, students and schools. We have an organization with a committed board, community sponsors, donors, members and volunteers.”
Besides the Balloon Festival, another significant source of funding for K-12 is from “The Taste of Havasu,” a food tasting event held at SARA Park in October. Restaurants supply samples of their signature dishes and attendees can try out all the food of Havasu’s best restaurants. Donations, memberships and sponsorships are other sources of income.
The K-12 school year starts with “Rally at the High School” where the Foundation finances any need not covered by the school district. K-12 also sponsors “Teacher Appreciation Night” in September at the London Bridge Resort & Convention Center where nearly 140 teachers attend a dinner and receive business-supplied raffle prizes.
K-12 supports students as well. Peer-to-peer math tutoring is provided for high school students struggling with math. The Foundation gives each elementary school $1,000 for the STEM program. In May, the top 20 graduating high school seniors are invited to an academic recognition dinner called “Stars for a Knight.”
Local schools also receive support from The Only Orchids Charity whose mission is “to enhance our community and humanity through charitable contributions, social awareness, entertaining events, and kindness towards others.” Projects near and dear to their hearts are mentoring youth, supporting schools and encouraging voter registration.
Orchids Only sends students to music, sports or choir camps, feeds people, buys musical instruments and helps teachers with certifications.
Soroptimists International is a women’s service organization committed to helping women and girls live their dreams through programs designed to lead them to social and economic empowerment.
There are many clubs and organizations in Havasu whose members freely give of their time and resources to support the people in our community. For those looking for an opportunity to give back, there are a lot of options.