WorldStrides Fundraiser Hall of Fame: Laura Mulligan Thomas
As part of our Fundraiser Hall of Fame series, we’d like to introduce to you to Laura Mulligan Thomas. Laura is the driving force behind the award-winning Charlottesville High School orchestra, an advocate for student travel, and an expert at fundraising. To date, her students have raised over $1,000,000 through a series of unique fundraisers.
Laura’s most reliable annual fundraiser is the Orchestra Poinsettia FUNdraiser, an event that brings the community out to buy holiday poinsettias, and they look forward to it every year. Last year’s sales totaled $26,000. The community following is so strong seniors hand down their sales lists to incoming freshman!
The orchestra also performs a benefit concert of Peter and the Wolf every other year. Local celebrities join in on the fun and narrate the story, including writer and broadcaster Jamie Bernstein and Boyd Tinsley, violinist for the Dave Matthews Band. The orchestra sells tickets to the concert to raise funds. Attending the performance of Peter the Wolf is a tradition for many Charlottesville families.
Laura and her orchestra also “upcycle” instruments that are beyond repair by commissioning local artists to create pieces of art from them. The upcycled instruments are then auctioned off.
Laura traveled with her first group of eight high school musicians 30 years ago. “Students were filled with wonder and awe,” says Laura. “They were wondrous. It was so eye-opening for all of us.” Since then, Laura and her students have continued to not only travel, but grow in numbers. This past year, she took a 140 student musicians to a performance festival in Ireland.
In regards to fundraising and planning for a big trip Laura recommends, “Give yourself plenty of lead time. Communicate frequently with your parents and get a core group excited about the tour. Make sure you have a support organization behind you: let’s work together and bring the cost down for each individual family. It’ll consume a lot of your time for an extended period, but it’s worth it. It’s always worth it! Travel broadens horizons and exposes students to different viewpoints. They come home with a sense of awe about what they’re a part of, and their connection to the broader world.”
Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Laura!