Perkins School for the Blind knows how to throw a party. On May 7, more than 550 guests arrived for a festive evening of music, inspiration and generosity at the 10th Anniversary Perkins Possibilities Gala.
The event raised $1.4 million for Perkins’ mission of providing children who are blind with the education and tools they need to achieve their full potential in life. Of that amount, $250,000 was raised through the annual Technology Challenge to provide cutting-edge technology to students and alumni.
Corinne Grousbeck, chair of the Perkins Board of Trustees, co-chaired the event with local businessman Joseph Fico and “Friends” producer Kevin Bright, who has produced and directed the Gala for five consecutive years.
“This is one of those events that makes you feel good about the world when you leave,” Bright said. “These kids are fantastic.”
Headliner Ellis Hall, a Perkins graduate and acclaimed musician, filled the dance floor with an energetic set of rhythm and blues classics, and the Perkins Student Chorus performed a medley of Motown hits backed by an 11-piece band from Berklee College of Music.
Perkins President and CEO Dave Power told the crowd that Perkins is making progress on his three priorities: innovation, education for all and transition to adult living for students who are blind. He noted that adaptive technology developed at Perkins is being used in schools around the world, giving students everywhere a greater opportunity to succeed.
“To position Perkins for continued success, we need to innovate – that is, find new ways to meet the changing needs of those we serve,” Power said.
Fico said the Perkins Business Partnership, announced at last year’s Gala, is working to overcome the 75 percent unemployment rate among people who are blind. The partnership, which includes many of the region’s largest companies and nonprofits, is developing strategies to break through barriers to employment and help students secure jobs with local businesses.
“We need to build a sustainable model that can be followed around the country and perhaps even around the world,” he said. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Grousbeck, whose son graduated from Perkins School for the Blind in 2014, said the future looks bright for Perkins – in no small part thanks to the generosity of the people who attended the Gala.
“I could not be more excited,” she said. “I know we are on course to touch the lives of each and every child who needs us, and to show society that the time has come to welcome people who are blind with open hearts, open minds and open arms.”