On July 25th local nonprofit organization Kids Making It will host their fourth annual Hippie Ball at UNCW’s Warwick Center (601 S. College Rd.). Those attending will dress in their best ‘60s and ‘70s attire to indulge in a night of fun.
A Wilmington-based organization, Kids Making It teaches vocational, life and entrepreneurial skills to at-risk youth. Over the past 20 years, the organization has reached more than 2,500 troubled children, including kids with special needs and court-involved teenagers. The program teaches students woodworking skills and lets them sell items in the adjoining Kids Making iT gift sho (617 Castle St.). The kids earn 100 percent of the profit for their work. Not only does it allow them monetary gain, it offers them a creative outlet, associate director Kim Boyce says.
Kids Making It’s annual Hippie Ball is the organization’s number one fundraiser. All monies raised continue to provide students with KMI services and outreach. Local businesses and individuals have donated various items for the silent auction.
“The biggest struggle has always been finding the funds every year to continue to do the work,” executive director Jimmy Pierce tells. “We are not institutionalized, meaning we are not hooked up to a school. We aren’t anybody’s line item on a budget. We have been very fortunate to receive some ongoing funding from a number of good organizations and foundations, but that’s never a gimme. We have to write those grants and hope that they continue with funding . . . It has been building the funding base and finding the funding every year—that’s the biggest struggle.”
Both Pierce and Boyce expect the 2015 Hippie Ball to be the biggest yet. The location moved to UNCW from its previous downtown spot. They’re hoping that centralizing will add to its growth.
“We love downtown; we support downtown; we are downtown, but we just wanted to try and be more centrally located to attract more people,” Boyce says. “We were three years at the same venue, so sometimes you have to change it up and expand.”
Not only have they changed venues, but they recently moved their workshop and gift shop from Water Street to Castle Street. The benefit is twofold. One, they’re located in the heart of the Castle Street Antique and Arts District, which means more foot traffic from customers wanting to buy the handmade goods. Also, Kids Making It is closer to the youth they serve.
“Transportation has always been an issue with us,” Boyce explains. “So the fact that we moved from Water to Castle [means] we are seeing a huge influx of new students on a weekly basis. We have new students coming in and they are within walking or biking or bus riding area.”
Kids Making It has impressive numbers on their effect on youth, too. One-hundred percent of their students graduate from high school. As well, the program has received recognition on a national level, and was highlighted on Forbes online in 2013 among 12 nonprofits nationwide. They also received the Minwax National Community Craftsman of the Year Award.
Local recognition has followed suit, as they’ve been noted by the UNCW Cameron School of Business and Wilmington Business Journal’s Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year Award, in the nonprofit category.
“We have received tons of awards,” Pierce humbly notes, “but none of those, nothing compares to the success of one kid at a time.”
Boyce attributes the nurturing, creative and encouraging environment of the programs as its main source of inspiration and success. Their volunteers and teachers genuinely care about the students with whom they work.
“They are interested in what they can do to help the students achieve what they want to achieve,” Boyce details. “I think it kind of shows them [and] gives them windows into other people’s lives. It gives them windows to how their lives could be. They get to see the possibilities, [and think,] ‘I’m not limited to what my parents have done. I’m not limited to what I see in my neighborhood. I’m not limited to what my brothers and sisters have done. I can do whatever I want to do. I just know there are people out there who care enough to help me; I just have to want it for myself.’”
Proceeds from the Hippie Ball will go to support the Kids Making It program, with the goal for every youth to stay in school, stay out of trouble and transition successfully into either the workplace or college, according to Boyce. Tickets are $50, which includes admission, dinner from Aramark (vegetarian and gluten free options included) and two drink tickets. There will be live music by BLIVET!, a local band that covers ‘60s and ‘70s hits. Students’ work will be for sale at the event, including their signature wooden pens and birdhouses.
As well, participants are encouraged to dress their best of the era, and come prepared to show off their hottest moves. A Best Dressed and Best Dancer contest will get underway, both judged by surprise locals. The master of ceremonies will be Brian White, “B Dubb” from Jammin 99.9.
A raffle and silent auction will help raise more money at the event. In fact, Boyce says the silent auction is going to be huge, due to the exceptional number of donators they had for 2015. Up for auction will be a week trip to Belize, a $500 gift card to Wilmington Dermatology, a beach cruiser from Two Wheel Dealer, a surfboard, among over 150 more items.
“This is the fourth year that we are doing the Hippie Ball, and if memory serves correctly, it was one of our board members who suggested it,” Boyce explains. “We actually have had other organizations tell us that if we ever stop doing it, they are probably going to pick it up, because they love the idea. It’s unlike any other fundraiser you’ve ever been to.”
Tickets to the Hippie Ball are available at kidsmakingit.org or at the KMI Gift Shop located on 617 Castle Street. All tickets are $50 and the proceeds go to Kids Making It. Other local sponsors for the event are PPD, Wells Fargo, Carolina Marine Terminal, Tribute Companies, RA Jeffreys Distributing Company, WECT, Aquesta Insurance, Tailwind Concessions, Whole Foods and First Bank.