Rotary Scholarship Night continues legacy, raises $45K

By Savanna Gregg

Staff Writer

Burnet Bulletin

The first annual Rotary Scholarship Night, held Saturday, Sept. 21, at Hidden River Ranch, welcomed hundreds of members of the community who came together to celebrate Burnet CISD students with a delicious dinner, live music, auctions, and fun and fellowship with friends and neighbors.

The Rotary Club of Burnet took over the fundraising duties for the Hill Country Community Foundation after the community attended the Suzanne Johnson Scholarship Endowment Fundraisers' Grand Finale last year.

After exceeding their goal of $1 million raised, HCCF Lifetime Director Cary Johnson and his children, who created the endowment in honor of their loving wife and mother in 2011, handed the reins to the Rotary Club, entrusting them with the philanthropic goal of raising funds to continue providing scholarships to every Burnet CISD graduate each year.

“Being a first year event, we were cautiously optimistic,” said Rotary President Paul Farmer. “We had self-titled our first year as a 'starting/learning fundraiser.' We expected to make a little bit of money, but were really just looking to get our name out there and figure out how to run such an event.

“However, the community of Burnet showed up,” Farmer said. “We were absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and generous donations.”

The Rotary's first scholarship fundraiser saw 250 ticket sales, and even sold out the day before the event. Estimated proceeds from the night were $45,000, which will go towards the HCCF Rotary Scholarship Endowment.

“Cary Johnson and his family were extremely successful with the Suzanne Johnson Endowment, and were generous enough to share the blueprint of that fundraiser with us. Then, they all showed up and supported the event,” Farmer said. “A big thanks to the Hill Country Community Foundation and the Rotary Club of Burnet, who put in countless hours of work to make the event a success.”

Burnet CISD students even had the opportunity to be a part of the evening's festivities, Interact Club members escorting guests to and from the venue on golf carts to make for an easier trek across the gravel driveway and serving food to guests once the event began. The Burnet High School Culinary Arts students also prepared three tableside desserts for the highest-bidding tables: beautiful displays of Bananas Foster, Bulldog Baked Alaska, and Spirit, Pride and Honor Creme Brulee.

“We knew that having the students show up and serve the community was really going to put a face on our cause,” Farmer said. “We didn't know that the impact would be as big as it was.”

The hardworking students at the event gave guests a unique opportunity to gather a sense of the true meaning of the fundraiser and the goal of community entities like the Rotary Club of Burnet and the HCCF, who plan to continue the event for years to come.

“The Hill Country Community Foundation supports all students that are seeking to further their education,” Farmer said. “That may be the student that has multiple full ride offers to any school in the nation. That may be the student that wants to go to a trade school and start their own business.

“That may be the student that isn’t supposed to go to college, that isn’t supposed to have a chance, that has been written off; they take that student and give them the chance and the opportunity to succeed,” Farmer added. “The community of Burnet saw those students on Saturday, and they responded very generously.”

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