Making Ordinary Extraordinary…..
It all started in summer of 2002 shortly before our son Colby Lutz’s first birthday. We were at a birthday party for a friend’s child. We watched as this young child was showered with gifts. There were ooohs and aaahs after each gift – but something seemed to be missing.
On the way home from that birthday party, we discussed what we felt was missing. It was the fact that all these friends and family members showered this child with $10, $20, $50 gifts- whatever the amount, many of these gifts, we felt the child may seldom – if ever use.
Further, based on what we had seen in the past with other friends and family members, it was known that many of these items would end up in garage sales or donation boxes within a short period of time.
So we asked ourselves… Why not just dispose of or donate them now?
The answer was easy. WE WILL DONATE THEM NOW!
Then we asked… To WHOM?
After very brief consideration and discussion, we chose Riley Hospital For Children
We then contacted the Child Life Department at Riley Hospital and asked what the kids could use.
In August of 2002, our son Colby, upon turning just 1 year old (unknowingly) held his first benefit/fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children in lieu of a traditional birthday party.
We invited about 50 of our closest friends, family members and neighbors. All of our guests were asked that in lieu of a birthday gift for Colby that either toys, books (or other items on the Riley Wish List) or a monetary donation to Riley Hospital be made. The event was a smashing success. It took 2 SUV’s to haul the incalculable amount of toys to the hospital.
In August of 2004, Colby’s 1 year old sister Cate (their birthdays are 1 day apart) joined the fray.
The event would become known as Colby & Cate’s Annual Birthday Bash.
For our 3rd year, the event grew to roughly 150 people (including children) and the estimated proceeds for the kids at Riley Hospital neared $2500. WOW!
By 2006, the event and annually changing themes grew even larger. To support the ’06 Star Wars theme, Darth Vader, a dozen storm troopers and several additional Star Wars characters appeared in full and authentic Star Wars Garb to mingle with the guests and provide photo opportunities. Tee shirts commemorating what is now an event were distributed for the first time as a special “thank you”….and to create awareness for our event and Riley Kids – year round.
In addition to a mid-to-late afternoon carnival-like experience for kids including bounce houses, games, contests, face painting, live children’s music and more, an “after-the-benefit, benefit” for adults only took place for the first time. Featuring live music, a staffed and open bar, dinner and dancing ‘til 2.A.M, the benefit certainly took on a new dynamic. This new dynamic allowed us to experience something we had not experienced since the first “intimate” event in 2002. It was estimated that the value of all gifts and monetary donations (all of which go to Riley) EXCEEDED the sum of monies we were personally spending to host the event. It was estimated that between the gifts and monetary donations that approximately $4500 was raised for Riley Hospital for Children at the 2006 event.
In 2007, nearly 350 invitations went out the door. In an attempt to increase the “booty” for the Riley kids (Pirates of the Caribbean theme in ’07) we added a “suggested minimum donation” to the invitation AND we held our first ever auction during the event that was now dubbed the “after party”.
These two decisions proved HUGELY SUCCESSFUL as with nearly $8,000 in monetary donations plus loads of toys, crafts and other gifts our estimated net in one day was $10,000 for Riley Hospital for Children – all in honor of the birthdays of our then 4 and 6 year old!
2008 the event nearly came to a screeching halt. The stock market had crashed. The real estate market was crashing with it. Being in the real estate biz, we could no longer fund the event personally as we had been since day one. After all, as the event grew, so had the cost. Over lunch with our financial planner, it was shared that, sadly Colby & Cate’s Birthday Bash was to come to an end. It was a great run!
Even as his income was taking a beating, he immediately offered to cover half, until it was asked of him if he’d like to know what half the cost had grown to? WHOA!
As we discussed the possible tax benefits for helping us fund it, a light went on in my head faster than, well, the speed of light.
Paid logo placement is a marketing expense, right. BINGO!
We’ll call it sponsorship! Better yet, we’ll sell MORE sponsorships!
We struck enough gold to keep the event going and found our theme at the same time.
With 2008 being the year of the Olympics, an Olympic theme was a natural fit. An Olympic stadium was created on the lot adjacent to our home, an Olympic village was created for the young athletes and their families and the streets were even closed not only for the opening ceremonies (Olympic torch and all), but also for the “mini-marathon” which ran down to the community pool and back. In 2008, we held a silent auction during the day time festivities “opening ceremonies” and a live auction during the closing ceremonies (the “after the benefit” benefit), which this time featured a professional DJ, not to mention all of the other annual traditions.
In 2008, Colby and Cate brought home the GOLD for the kids at Riley raising over $18,300 in cash plus another truck-load of toys and materials for many arts and crafts. Total estimate for 2008 was over $20,000.
2009 (our 7th year) was another special year. This year, we enlisted the help of the soon-to-be SUPER BOWL bound, Indianapolis Colts. Several Colts players and 2 Colts cheerleaders attended, played with the kids, taught football moves and cheers and naturally signed autographs for all who attended. The attendance was an all time high (estimated 550-600) and of course, the results were an all time high – with our “little back yard” event raising $33,157 in monetary donations AND a van full of toys, crafts and other items.
In 2010, due to the overwhelming success of 2009 and the equally overwhelming support of the Colts players who attended, we repeated the Colts theme. 8 Colts, 2 cheerleaders and even Miss Indiana USA joined nearly 800 of our closest friends in our endeavor to improve the quality of life for the young kids at Riley! We scored to tune of $45,200 and change! 2010, was also a very special year for our family, as our efforts were recognized by the folks at Riley Foundation, who dedicated a room at the new Simon Family Tower in our children’s names.
In 2011, it wasn’t broke, so we didn’t fix it! We once again stuck with a winner – the Indianapolis Colts and NFL theme. We had a dozen current Colts and NFL alumni including Pro-Bowlers and Super Bowl Champions. We also had Miss Indiana and Miss Indiana Outstanding Teen join us. New elements were added to keep the kids busy, the auction was larger than life and we raised a tad bit under $50,000!
After the successful 2011 event, we took a giant leap. We formed Colby & Cate’s Charities Inc. We then applied to become a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.
2012 was a very special year as we were joined by the Indiana Pacers. Further, not only did we raise a record amount of nearly $64,000 for Riley Kids, but we also received recognition by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c) (3) non profit charitable organization.
Our 501 (c) (3) designation allows us to expand on the gift we have been given – the gift of Philanthropy.
The gift of giving and caring for others.
2013 was another special year for us! For the first time we held 2 events!
An intimate event for sponsors and top donors as well as the Birthday Bash.
The intimate event allowed us to reach out and support organizations outside of Riley for the first time.
The Birthday Bash was amazing! The Pacers returned as did members of the Colts.
We set another record by raising an astonishing amount of little over $65,000 for Riley Kids.
Between the day and night portions and volunteers, we were also in the neighborhood of 1100+ people!
2013 also included co-hosting our first experience for Riley Kids – a Suite Experience to Justin Bieber at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
In 2014, we held our 2nd intimate event and our 12th Birithday Bash.
As Colby & Cate were getting older, although we were raising more money, the time had come to start taking a look at our format and thinking about the future…..
Were we outgrowing the carnival and street fair concept?
Were we outgrowing the sports theme?
Well, we chose to start heading back to our roots and did not have any Colts or Pacers for the first time since 2009.
But it kept growing anyway. We set another record at the Birthday Bash. Nearly $74,000!!!
2015 we had our first real setback. Inclement weather the days leading up to the event. A flooded yard – which could have been prevented (always turn off irrigation before erecting a tent). 100 degree weather the day of the event. Major events competing with us the day of the event.
As a result of all of these factors beyond our control, for the first time ever, we were down significantly. $59,000. Discouraging? You betcha! It had never happened. However, it was bound to happen sooner or later, right? So, we did what any rational, forward-thinking organization would do. NOTHING! Except change the weekend to where we weren’t competing with as many vacations, travel tournaments etc. As the kids were aging, this was our competition. We also hosted our 2nd and 3rd Experiences
2016 we chose to change the event to the Saturday before school started. And we came roaring back.
We smashed all prior records and raised over $101,000! We raised so much, both Amy and Matt had to shave their heads – live on stage during the event.
2017, we faced a daunting task. How in the world could we break the $100K mark again? 2 years in a row? Well, $121,000 later, we’re not sure, but we did it! And we couldn’t be more grateful. In fact, rather than shave heads, there is a more permanent marker of the record shattering numbers. A tattoo to mark the occasion. Now every step taken by Matt, is a step taken to create awareness for cancer!
Colby & Cate’s Charities hosted 3 more terrific experiences in 2017.
St. Louis Expedition (a 3 day/2 night experience for 7 families)
What started with the simple idea of Making Ordinary Extraordinary has grown beyond our wildest dreams.
Anyone can do it. It doesn’t have to grow to this level. If you are interested in doing something similar, let us know. We’re happy to help. We are even launching a FUNdraiser Party Starter. Click on the link and see how you can turn a special event in a FUNdraiser too!
At Colby & Cate’s Charities, we’ve clearly expanded beyond toy drives and fundraising, to supporting not only multiple organizations, but equally, if not more importantly, the children themselves
Colby & Cate’s Charities:
Offers their own program services (experiences) for chronically and critically ill or injured children and for some events, their families.
Provides wish fulfilment for chronically and critically ill or injured children.
Provides camp opportunities for chronically and critically ill or injured children..
Funds research to find a cure for pediatric cancers
Provides recreational items for patient use while in or visiting children’s hospitals.
Provides restricted gifts to children’s hospitals for the exclusive benefit of patients.
We hope you’ll join us!
Matt, Amy, Colby & Cate Lutz
and all of us at..
Colby & Cate’s Charities Inc.