By Joshua Baethge

Photos Courtesy Van Alstyne Education Foundation

For those who attended, it was a night to remember. For local students, it may have been a night that made their future just a bit brighter.

The Van Alstyne Education Foundation (VAEF) hosted its seventh annual Denim and Diamonds Gala Thursday. It was an evening of fun, food and games in support of local schools.

“The gala is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” VAEF Executive Director Dacia McBryde said. “It has the biggest impact on our overall ability to give throughout the year.”

The VAEF was founded in 2012 with a mission to provide resources that enhance the education experience of all students. Since then, it has given more than

half a million dollars to Van Alstyne ISD.

The two main items that the foundation raises money for are senior scholarships and teacher grants.

Last year more than $38,000 in scholarships were given to students in increments ranging from $500 to $5,000. This year, VAEF hope to give $50,000.

Teachers were given approximately $48,000 in grants last year. That money was used for things like equipment for the high school robotics program, iPads (which are especially useful for elementary teachers) and various equipment for the district’s physical education programs.

Gala organizers decided to change things up this year. For the first time, the event was held at The Springs at Tuscany Hill in Anna.

Previous galas revolved around a formal dinner with a live auction and a few games. This year, it evolved into a full-fledged casino night. There were also dinner stations to give the event a more causal vibe. And, of course, no true casino night would be complete without a bar.

Auction highlights included access to vacation at homes in Colorado and New Mexico. One lucky person earned the chance to shoot a machine gun with an ex-Navy Seal. Another bidder will soon be inviting up to 40 friends to The Roost for a party evening of burgers and beer.

“Last year, we raised $90,000,” McBryde said. “This year, we are really hoping to beat that and hit close to $100,000.”

For those looking for more ways to help the VAEF, the 12th annual Little Big Town 5K and Family Fun Run is slated for May 2. Proceed from that event will

also go to teacher grants and student scholarships. Donations can also be made through the Amazon Smile program or by going to the Education Foundation ink at