WENATCHEE — “Dama After Dark” was a wildly successful fundraiser for Foothills Middle School that was held Feb. 1.
The event drew more than 800 people, mostly middle school-age boys, from all over the state.
The Foothills Parent-Teacher-Student Association raised $11,450, which will be used to help pay for student events and activities.
Sam Uhlmann, co-owner of Kendama Co. based in Denver, and Matt “Sweets” Jorgenson, owner of Sweets Kendamas based in Minneapolis, both flew in for this event. Afterward, both said it was the largest kendama event ever held in the United States.
The entire Wenatchee Kendama Team (WKT), led by Keith Matsumura and Matt Ballard, were at the event. Keith is also a pro for Kendama USA and acted as emcee for the evening from a large stage donated by Town Toyota Center. Matt filmed the event and took many pictures as well. Matt is also the creator of the kendama film, “Where We Are,” which premiered at the Performing Arts Center in December.
Sweets Kendamas also flew in their pro, William Penniman, from Atlanta. Kendama Co. also brought in two pros — Hunter Bailey from Idaho and Gus Carstens from the Spokane area.
ll the pros displayed their unique talents. The crowd went nuts when they landed their tricks and even if they didn’t. At any given time during the event, there were 150-200 kids surrounding the main stage. The WKT, kendama company owners and guest pros were all placed on small stages set up around the gym. Kids were able to kendama with them, ask questions and learn how to do special tricks. During this session, over 60 kendamas and hundreds of prizes were handed out to the kids in the crowd. The hundreds of prizes were donated by Kendama Co., Kendama USA, Sweets Kendamas and Academic Toolbox.
An autograph table was set up in the school’s Commons Area. Tracy Pelayo was instrumental in rotating all of the company owners and their pros around to keep the evening flowing and the crowd spread out. The kids were thrilled to meet the pros and get their kendamas autographed.
Due to the enormous size of the crowd, Wenatchee Kendama Team members were placed in the Auxiliary Gym for the smaller children. This was perfect and the little kids felt more comfortable in a smaller area. They also seemed to like the hundreds of kendama erasers donated by Academic Toolbox. The business also set up a kendama store, selling over 200 units that night.
The last hour of the night consisted of kendama “Battles” in five categories — kids only, beginner, intermediate, jumbo (oversized kendamas) and advanced. The kids were thrilled to participate and received many prizes. First-place winners received three kendamas — one from each company. All other winners received kendamas and other prizes.
he Foothills PTSA was originally planning a Bingo Night fundraiser, but switched its efforts to hosting a kendama event when bingo cards could not be obtained. The group hoped to make between $2,000 and $3,000 at a bingo event. A parent who had attended a kendama show at Academic Toolbox last fall, suggested a large-scale kendama night for kids. Melinda Gilliver was named event organizer or “Dama Mama” (as her co-committee members call her) and the planning began immediately.
ama After Dark would not have been such a huge success without everyone pitching in before, during and after the event. Daphne Slife served as social media coordinator, building a Dama After Dark website and Facebook page. Vaishali Bhide was the volunteer coordinator who recruited over 30 parents and teachers to help during the event. Michelle Jobe kept track of all the expenses, monetary donations and had the fun job of counting it all up at the end of the night. Chanin Street, Melissa Wisen and Val Bills also had instrumental roles in planning this event. Heidi Fromm and Lori Ksander participated as well.
The $10 entry ticket included a free kendama (all 772 were donated by event sponsor Academic Toolbox), drink and snack, and coupon discounts to many local vendors. We started out with only 500 tickets. After they sold out in less than two weeks, we ordered more. More than 20 kids from the Spokane area and several others from as far away as the Seattle area attended. Unfortunately, we were forced to turn away another 100-plus people at the door. Due to crowd size, we obtained two security officers for the event from Pacific Security, which donated its services.
he event committee was able to procure enough money and donations to cover event expenses. In addition to Academic Toolbox and the kendama companies (Kendama USA, Sweets Kendamas, Sourmash and Kendama Co.), there were several other major contributors to this event — Homchick Smith & Associates, DJ Shelda, Marriott SpringHill Suites, Wenatchee KIA & Suzuki, Town Toyota Center, the Wenatchee Wild, Martin Morris Insurance, BioSports, Craft Warehouse, Wenatchee Valley Medical Center and over three dozen other local businesses.
The FMS PTSA, students and staff are very grateful for the community’s support.
Melinda Gilliver is a member of the Foothills Parent-Teacher-Student Association. She served as event organizer for the association’s Dama After Dark event.