Heartly House’s Affair of the Heart Gala Transitioned into Virtual Event

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Frederick community comes together to raise awareness of domestic violence and garner support for critical services

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“This event is all about community awareness and education.” - Niki Thrash, Director of Development, Heartly House

Heartly House–an organization that provides comprehensive services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and child abuse–held their Affair of the Heart Gala this past weekend to raise awareness and funds for their critical work in the Frederick community and beyond.

“This event is all about community awareness and education,” said Niki Thrash, Director of Development for Heartly House. “We want to open the conversation about the crimes that happen behind closed doors. We have to stop it from being a secret so that we can save lives and help individuals and families begin to heal by providing a continuum of high-quality, evidence-based, trauma-informed services for victims and survivors.”

Historically, the event has served as the organization’s annual fundraiser. However, after Gov. Larry Hogan announced restrictions on gatherings in response to COVID-19, the Heartly House team jumped into action to take the event online. With just under six weeks to transform a physical event into a virtual one, the gala had to be completely reimagined.

The team at Heartly House first reached out to all of the event sponsors. Without the cost of catering, cocktails, and entertainment, the funds needed to be reallocated to audio/visual services and updated marketing efforts. Sponsors of the event, including Leidos (Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research), Audio Video Group, The Frederick News-Post, Law Offices of Kaslick & Prete, LLC, In Honor of Her, and many other local businesses and individuals signed on to continue their support of a virtual event. With the help of Postern, Heartly House was able to update advertisements and marketing messages well in advance, and with the help of Audio Video Group, the event was pre-recorded and streamed on LiveStream, a video streaming platform.

Because the event would be streamed online for free, the team reached out to ticket purchasers to offer a refund or the option to donate the amount of their ticket. Each ticket purchaser graciously agreed to donate the cost of their ticket–a true testament to our community’s generosity.

The organization also received a grant from the Women’s Giving Circle of Frederick County, which was partially matched by the Frederick News-Post, to enable the launch of the #StillHere campaign, a marketing initiative promoting Heartly House’s services during this unprecedented time.

“While the stay-at-home order is meant to keep people safe, home isn’t a safe place for everyone. It feels like this event couldn’t be more timely to bring about awareness, discussion and hopefully, financial support,” said Thrash.

The event recognized Rachel Louise Snyder, author of No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, and advocate for those whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence. Snyder was interviewed in advance of the event by Patrick Mendonca, a WFRE radio personality and long-time supporter of Heartly House, and recorded by Audio Video Group. Originally booked as the event’s emcee, Mendonca was excited to help take the event online.

Following the event, sponsors and donors will receive a signed copy of the book, which will be hand-delivered, if possible, by the Heartly House staff in order to save funds for services.

“Rachel was thrilled to know we were finding a way to hold the event and willing to help in any way she could,” said Thrash. The books were sponsored by In Honor of Her and purchased by Curious Iguana, a downtown Frederick bookstore, passing on the wholesale price to Heartly House.

When you are bold enough to innovate, you will need that same boldness to endure the hurdles common to innovation. This was the case with the technology utilized during the Affair of the Heart Gala. During the live stream, there was a brief and unfortunate outage. If you joined in for the event Saturday night, we truly thank you for your commitment of time, and we ask you to please visit the website to see the video in its entirety.

While this event was delivered online, Heartly House is still working out the details to take all of their services online as well.

During this difficult time, Heartly House is still open and operating for anyone in need. If you or a loved one is looking for support, you can reach out via their 24/7 hotline at 301-662-8800, or visit them online at http://www.HeartlyHouse.org.

For more information about how you can support Heartly House, visit https://www.heartlyhouse.org/donate/.

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