In the last five years, The Carousel Center for Abused Children has raised half a million dollars for their nonprofit through their annual Making Legends Local Gala, held every spring. Local celebrities, politicians, community stewards, business and civic leaders, theatre professionals, and others take the stage, dressed according to the gala’s annual theme, to perform their favorite songs for audiences. For 2015 everyone’s headed back to the decade of neon colors, Pac Man and MTV.
“In the early years, this event started as a fashion show,” Carousel Center board member Todd Godbey informs. “It’s evolved into an all-out, lip-syncing fun fest that it is today!”
They’ve covered motifs of all varieties: TV’s most famed theme songs, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, one-hit wonders, and even the best of Broadway. However, every August, once the committee begins to plan the annual gala, numerous people come forward with the request of throwing it back to big hair and acid-wash jeans—a look that executive director Amy Feath knew well 30 years ago.
“That was some decade for fashion,” she quips, “especially as a teenager: the shoulder pads, high-waisted pants, tapered legs, big sweaters, bold colors and patterns, huge hair, and really heavy make-up. I lived through it once; I certainly can bring it back to support The Carousel Center and cannot wait to see all our guests and performers go all out.”
The event is close to selling out for 2015 (it sells out every year). The silent auction held during the evening will increase funds needed to keep The Carousel Center’s day-to-day operations continuously improving the safety and health of children and their families.
The nonprofit launched in 2000 and approaches its clients twofold. First and foremost, they provide services to any child who has suffered through physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse. They also reach out to the community to ensure education helps prevent child abuse.
“Carousel Center operations count on every dollar raised to support its mission to provide crucial intervention and healing services, regardless of a family’s ability to pay for care,” Feath describes. “No child survivor of abuse should struggle to obtain comprehensive, high-quality services to heal.”
The Carousel Center’s staff of certified and trained therapists provide full medical evaluations, so the nonprofit can work closely with law enforcement agents to provide all forensic evidence necessary for each case investigation. They ensure strong criminal accountability for child abusers and predators in the Cape Fear area, and they work closely with community organizations in a multi-disciplinary way, including partnerships with social services, district attorneys, schools, family advocates, and others.
More importantly, they focus on getting children back to the business of childhood, by implementing therapies that work toward alleviating post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Children’s Alliance-certified center uses trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to help children and their families and caregivers reach a level of normality after facing maltreatment. In the last 15 years, the Carousel Center has examined 3,022 children and offered more than 5,000 therapy sessions. In 2014 they provided child forensic interview and medical services for 333 new child-abuse victims, as well as 844 trauma-specialized therapy sessions. They’ve also seen a 50-to-75-percent reduction in PTSD symptoms, which help clients improve coping skills and endure less residual effects from abuse.
“The center employs full and part-time child medical exam providers, child therapists, child forensic interviewers, and family advocates, all within its scope of operations, making it the Cadillac model for an accredited child advocacy center in North Carolina,” Feath tells.
Only 11 full-time and part-time staff members run the operation, with one senior aide, a QENO AmeriCorps VISTA member, a retired senior volunteer, and around 14 community volunteers who work within the center weekly. The board of directors is 16 strong, each of whom help devise multiple fundraisers throughout the year: Heart of the Matter Luncheon and Tin Man Biggest Heart Awards; MTS Services Flounder Fishing Tournament; Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival; and Johnstone “Tee It OFF!” for The Carousel Center Golf Tournament. However, Making Legends Local raises around $100,000 per year.
“The gala is the primary reason The Carousel Center’s board was nominated for and awarded the 2013 Inaugural Non-Profit Fundraising Board of the Year Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals—Cape Fear,” Feath beams.
As part of the annual 2015 event, they‘re getting bigger and better. Cast size and audience attendance has grown. Plus, they’ve added a “Battle of the Acts” to the evening. Attendees can buy tickets to vote on the best performer of the night. At the end of the evening, a Lip-Synching Legend of the Year will be awarded a traveling trophy (this year’s recipient will hand the trophy off next year to a new champion).
“We are excited to engage the audience and the acts in this friendly competition,” Godbey tells. “On the lip-syncing stage, we all have permission to go a little crazy!”
So far folks can expect to see Madonna and Boy George, dueling Tina Turners, Cyndi Lauper, Bon Jovi, Run DMC and Aerosmith, Annie Lennox and Al Green, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, and so many more. Locals slated to take on some of these celeb personalities include Celia Rivenbark and “duh hubby” Scott Whisnant, Sheila Brothers of SUNNY 104.5, Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein, WPD detectives, the Kids Making It staff, and many others.
“The night will start with a red-carpet reception and auction that will throw us back in time,” producer Justin Sorrells says. Sorrell, along with co-producer Kandar Romeo, will host the evening’s festivities.