Special Events

Event industry helps tsunami victims

With the death toll from the Dec. 26 tsunami in South Asia and East Africa now exceeding 212,000, the event industry is demonstrating its characteristic generosity of spirit, drumming up donations and offering aid from throughout the world.

Many corporations have stepped up to the challenge, collecting cash to speed relief.

The Washington-based J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has contributed $1 million to tsunami relief efforts (J. Williard Marriott founded the Marriott hotel chain); Marriott International (www.marriott.com) has given $50,000 to the Red Cross and $50,000 to Habitat for Humanity. The company has contributed another $25,000 to help rebuild the homes of employees from the Marriott Phuket resort and spa; Phuket suffered badly in the disaster. The Marriott Jakarta has provided more than 20 tons of relief supplies for victims, while employees at the Marriott Bangkok have donated a day's pay to relief efforts. Additionally, Marriott employees have pledged more than $50,000 through the company's internal Web site.



Alexandria, Va.-based PGI (www.pgi.com) has offered a matching gift program for UNICEF, whereby management makes every employee contribution worth double, according to CB Wismar, executive vice president of marketing and strategic communications. So far, the program has rung up $25,000 for the cause.

Loews Coronado Bay Resort (www.loewshotels.com) in San Diego has mobilized $20,000 for tsunami relief, a contribution stemming from Loews Hotels chairman Jonathan Tisch's pledge to match any of the hotel chain's contributions.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Culinary Capers Catering (www.culinarycapers.com) has piled up $13,000 for the effort, taking donations from its own employees--who voted to give money instead of holding a company holiday party--with that gift bolstered by management and the Canadian government.

St. Louis-based MAC Meetings and Events (www.macmeetings.com) also matched employee contributions, pulling in some $1,000.

The Denver event community staged an impromptu fund-raiser on Jan. 12 for some 600 guests that pulled in $21,000, despite a snowstorm the morning of the party, relates Syd Sexton, head of Gourmet Fine Catering (www.gourmetfinecatering.com). The ticket price was $25, but "most people paid upwards of that amount with several in the hundreds and even $1,000," Sexton says. "This is one of the happiest events I have ever participated in. You could swim in the good karma. Denver is an awesome place to live and work."

Anaheim, Calif.-based GBS Linens (www.gbslinens.com) has launched a program whereby the company will contribute 50 cents for every dollar donated to the American Red Cross by Feb. 28, with a limit of $5,000. According to GBS vice president of sales and marketing Sujata Mody Kamdar, "GBS Linens believes in giving assistance to our extended friends and neighbors across the globe; it is our social and moral responsibility to help those in need."

SHARING SERVICES

While some companies contribute cash, others share their services.

Harith Wickrema, head of Oreland, Pa.-based Harith Productions Ltd. (www.harithproductions.com), was born and raised in Sri Lanka, one of the countries that suffered most from the tsunami. "All of my clients have extended financial aid and medical equipment to support" the relief effort, he notes. He is working to identify individual organizations to which he can make direct assistance to victims.

Index Event Agency, based in Bangkok, Thailand (www.indexevent.com), another country hard hit by the disaster, is working with local social service agencies to develop road shows designed to bolster the morale and mental health of tsunami victims.

THEY'VE GOT THE GOODS

Others do good with goods.

20th Century Props, based in North Hollywood, Calif. (www.20thcenturyprops.com) donated props, set dressing and green room furniture to the Jan. 15 "Concert of Hope," staged by network NBC to benefit victims.

The team at Chicago Party Rental (www.chicagopartyrental.com), based in McCook, Ill., is in the process of contacting both the Red Cross and World Vision with an offer to donate used tents for temporary shelter.

Chair-man Mills (www.chairmanmills.com), based in Toronto, is donating rentals for a local foodservice industry fund-rasiser; "So many people affected have relatives who work in the foodservice business," notes company president Mary Crothers.

Technical Direction Co. of Rosebery, NSW (www.tdc.com.au), donated a large LED screen plus labor for a fund-raising concert at Sydney Opera House, which pulled in some $20 million.

ONGOING NEED

Event professional Romaine Pereira, head of International Corporate Events of Mascot, New South Wales, and a native of Sri Lanka, cautions that the need for aid to tsunami victims--particularly children--will go on long after the disaster begins to fade from the headlines. The children "don't know where to go. They will never know who they were, as so many are so young," she explains. In response, she is considering a project to establish an orphanage for children who have no one to turn to.

"This is a long-term project that would depend on our ability to lock in benevolent contributions," she notes. However, "We in the event industry can make a difference, and I believe we will."

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