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$30,000 Donation to Help Learning Disabled Adults

September 2019 

In August, a nonprofit organization called FINS (Friends of Independence Network) generously made a donation of $30,000 to support Independence Network, an educational day program for learning disabled adults. 

FINS was established in 2011 for the sole purpose of supporting Santa Clara Unified’s Independence Network (IN) program which is located on the Educational Options campus. Since then, FINS has been raising funds to support IN through online drives, rummage sales, and sponsored walks. The check for $30,000 was the result of their first major fundraiser, a traditional Italian supper, silent auction, and raffle held on April 6 at Mariani’s Restaurant. 

172 tickets were sold by the FINS Board and IN staff. The event was well attended by around 135 people, including board members; Andy Ratermann, Jodi Muirhead and Michele Ryan; City Councilman, Raj Chahal and his wife Daljit; and of course the wonderful IN students and their loved ones. FINS board members were assisted by volunteers from the Fraternal Order of Eagles, as well as many paras and staff who volunteered their time for the event and various activities. The seven-member FINS board not only planned the event, but also solicited all donations, created and packaged the baskets, produced signs and a video, and staffed the event.  

“Feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing surprise that it was the first year for the event,” said FINS Board President Joan Forte. 

Many local businesses, such as Gilroy Gardens, Massage Envy, Home Depot, Target, Akira Restaurant in Santa Cruz and the San Jose Sharks donated items and gift cards. Baskets included a Pier 39 excursion package, a family game night, Tempurpedic pillows, garden baskets, gourmet cooking baskets, baby baskets, a Rosewood Spa package and many more. In addition, our community offered incredible support through their donations of timeshares, bottles of wine, handmade quilts, gift cards, and many other items. The 76 auction baskets were vigorously competed for and most sold above their retail value. Other very popular items were the bracelets and art made by our very own IN student artists. The event culminated with the much-awaited raffle prize drawings, which included a handmade quilt, floral arrangements, a gourmet Italian basket, a $100 Amazon gift card, and the grand prize — a week for two in Jamaica in the honeymoon suite at Sunset Villas and Resort!

As a result of the ticket and raffle sales, silent auction and other donations, FINS far exceeded their goal of $15,000. We thank all the community that rallied to show the wonderful students of the IN their support. Special thanks go to Educational Options Director Brenda Carillo, and Program Administrator Carrie Casto, for their support and encouragement. 

“I was very impressed with your first silent auction fundraiser,” said Carillo. “It was organized, elegant, professional, and well attended. I think that more than generating some funds, it really brought together a community of people who care about our students and raised awareness of the program. That is priceless. In appreciation of our partnership.”

The FINS team was recognized by the SCUSD board for their hard work and dedication during the August 8 board meeting. Stay tuned for details about next year's annual event taking place in April 2020 and learn more about FINS on the FINS website.