Kyrene Foundation fundraiser

Guests at last year’s Kyrene Foundation fundraiser, which was then titled “Taste of Kyrene” got to bid on both live and silent auctions for great prizes.

The Kyrene Foundation is dedicated to serving the children in our community, and to do their best, they need people to save the date for Sept. 28.

That’s when the foundation will hold its signature fundraiser at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa.

Formerly titled “Taste of Kyrene,” and usually held later in the year, the 2019 event has been renamed “Night for Kyrene” to better describe its overall mission.

The evening includes a dinner buffet, a “spectacular silent auction,” live auction, a wine pull and live entertainment provided by The School of Rock’s premier student music group, Sugar Skulls.

The evening’s M.C. is Matthew Blades, a popular Mix 96.9 morning radio host and Ahwatukee resident who has two children in Kyrene schools. 

As in years past, proceeds help fund a variety of programs that benefit Kyrene school children and their families.

The work for Kyrene families is but one reason why foundation board member Suzanne Rinker is involved as event chairman this year.

“It is so important to me, as a Kyrene parent and community member, to be able to support students, teachers and families in the Kyrene district,” said Rinker, who has a daughter in eighth grade at Altadena Middle School.

“From a student receiving a scholarship to participate in after school athletics, to the teacher receiving a mini-grant to implement a new program in their classroom, to the family who receives a full Thanksgiving meal, I am very proud of how we, the Kyrene Foundation, are continually making a difference in the community,” said Rinker, also associate vice president of unit development for the ASU Foundation.

“And I think it is important to highlight that this is one of our most important fundraising events of the year that allows us to provide these services within the Kyrene community,” she said.

The nonprofit Kyrene Foundation, founded in the mid-1980s, provides some important annual initiatives that assist needy families throughout the year.

They include the Kyrene Resource Center, a joint effort between the Kyrene School District and the foundation that provides food and clothing and other necessities. 

And these families aren’t forgotten during those times of the year where funds are scarce and needs are greater — such as the start of the  school, when they receive backpacks and school supplies or during the holidays. 

Each Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Kyrene Foundation — in tandem with corporations, small businesses other nonprofits, community members and district employees and parents — stands ready to assist needy families. 

Last year 250 families received a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings.

At the annual Winter Wonderland held in December, invited parents were once again able to personally select gifts for their children and have them gift wrapped by community Kyrene staff volunteers — all in a festive holiday atmosphere. 

The Kyrene Foundation also provides for its principals and teachers in a variety of ways. Last year, $20,000 in mini-grants were awarded teachers in amounts up to $500 that help them provide ‘enhanced learning opportunities’ for their students.

Principal mini-grants totaling $5,000 are also awarded. Last year the Foundation had six applications that topped $24,000. 

Kyrene de la Estrella Principal and former Kyrene student Sarah Collins received a $2,456 grant, and used it to purchase peace walk/conflict resolution mats for every classroom, with two more painted permanently on playgrounds.

The classroom mats are printed on 12’X1’ durable vinyl and includes seven steps to resolving a conflict, beginning with recognizing how each student feels and ending with a mid-mat handshake. 

“We trained our staff and students on how to appropriately and effectively utilize the mats to help solve minor disagreements and conflicts,” said Collins, a 42-year Ahwatukee resident.

“Many of the issues on an elementary campus that occur between students don’t necessarily need adult intervention. Sometimes, kids just need to talk about how they felt, what they need from the other person to move forward, and to simply apologize, or receive an apology,” she continued, adding:

“The peace walk mat is now a part of Estrella school culture. We’re very happy to report that our campus is seeing an increase in our students’ abilities to peacefully solve minor conflicts, which has led to an increase in self-confidence, problem-solving skills and positive peer relationships.”

Athletic Scholarships and Community Education/Youth Enrichment Scholarships are other initiatives funded by the Kyrene Foundation year-round — and why this Night for Kyrene fundraiser is so important, organizers stressed.

Entertainment at the gala is provided by The School of Rock Sugar Skulls.

One of its 22 members, ages 12 to 18, said he’s amped to help out Kyrene Foundation as he was a student at Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary and Altadena Middle School, and is now a Desert Vista High School junior.

“When I heard that the Sugar Skulls would be playing a show for the Kyrene Foundation, my ears perked up, as, of course, I recognized the Kyrene name,” said guitarist Jake Henderson. 

“Having attended school in the Kyrene School District for nine years, I was excited and honored to be able to be a part of this fundraiser,” said Jake, who also has his own band, Not Confined.

 “I do know that the Kyrene Foundation is all about giving back to the community, especially the families who are less fortunate, so that they can live just like everyone else. I’m a firm believer in giving everyone equal opportunities, so I’m excited to be a part of this fundraiser,” Jake added.

The Sugar Skulls members must audition to be in the band and have opened for diverse acts like Joan Jett, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Grand Funk Railroad.

They’ve also played numerous charitable events around the Valley. The three area rock schools are owned and operated by Gilbert residents Shane and Megan Baskerville, who opened the Ahwatukee location in 2013.

According to Rinker, the Night for Kyrene auction goods are exceptional this year, and one silent auction item in particular she hopes will have attendees bidding on so they can gift it to another. 

“We have a donation from Pearson Learning for an ‘Extreme Classroom Makeover’ that we hope parents will bid on for their child’s teacher,” she said. 

The makeover will provide a range of supplemental materials to enhance core classroom instruction to a teacher who can then choose from reading and writing materials, science labs, math manipulatives, world languages, music material and other learning aids. 

In addition, Pearson has also offered $800 in gift certificates for possible donations to classrooms by the successful bidders.

Among other silent auction items are a $750 Tuft & Needle credit, a Sedona getaway, North Pole Experience tickets and a variety of salon and spa packages.

Sponsorships starting at $500 are still being accepted through mid-September.

To purchase tickets for the Sept. 28 Night for Kyrene donate to the silent auction, or become a sponsor visit or email

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