Kim Butenhoff of New Canaan wants what any mother does for her children: health, happiness and a good education. As co-chair of the annual gala committee at Villa Maria School, she’s making sure they have it.
“The money we raised goes toward a number of programs at the school, including continuing education for the teachers and classroom supplies,” Butenhoff says, handing off a spatula to her husband as he takes over pancake duty for their daughter’s sleepover while she answers a few questions over the phone.
The gala is one of the primary fundraising activities for Stamford's Villa Maria School. The school focuses on children with learning disabilities and is privately funded. Though tuition covers many costs, there are always more expenses involved.
Butenhoff became involved because her son attends school there and is now in the sixth grade. His condition would make learning in a traditional classroom too distracting, according to Butenhoff. She says that it also helps that there are only three other students in his work group.
“He wouldn’t be a part of the school community somewhere else. Villa Maria really gives him as normal an experience as possible. For the moment, this is really the best place for him to learn and be a helpful and involved part of the school community,” Butenhoff says.
Eventually, her son will have to move beyond Villa Maria’s walls. The school currently serves children through ninth grade and doesn’t function as a high school but hopes to in time with the addition of services and a dedicated gym facility. She hopes that someday students will be able to finish their entire education at the private school thanks to the fundraising efforts of parents like her
She’s working with the committee to plan next year’s fundraising event. It hopes to replace the dinner and dancing in favor of a more elegant cocktail party. The silent and live auctions will remain. This year she estimates the school raised $100,000 from the gala, which she hopes to top in years to come.
“We’re hoping to spread it over two days, where the second day includes a boutique open to the general public to begin their Christmas shopping. There are a lot of people not directly involved with the school who we would like to invite to participate because they want to support the school,” Butenhoff says.