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Everything is better in blue jeans, even fundraising

Monica Gay plays the Plinko game. Cloquet Educational Foundation Director Jeannie Kermeen said the Plinko game was a HUGE hit and raised more than $3,800. The Plinko board was built by Cameron Lindner, who teaches at the middle school, and Judy and Don Lahti (a retired teacher). Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 8
Del Prevost, vice president of the Cloquet Educational Foundation Board of Directors, handles the emcee duties while John Lind auctions off 13 different auction packages, which included paintings, a houseboat vacation, a special tour of Sappi’s Cloquet mill and even charter fishing with Team Crush Outdoors. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com2 / 8
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Stephanie Sklors, Upward Bound advisor at Cloquet High School, tries her hand at the ring toss during the Blue Jean Ball on Feb. 4 at Black Bear Casino and Resort. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com4 / 8
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Photo by Dorine Houck6 / 8
Photo by Dorine Houck7 / 8
Photo by Dorine Houck8 / 8

Fancy dress is not required, perhaps that's why the Cloquet Educational Foundation's Blue Jean Ball is such a popular annual event. Maybe it's the table decorations, as each table is decorated in a particular theme and includes take-home goodies for each person. Then again, the reason behind the fundraiser may be the enticement to keep the crowds coming back: raising money to help Cloquet students have an even better educational experience.

Whatever the reason, this year's ball on Feb. 4 was a huge success ... again.

"All of the money raised at the Blue Jean Ball goes right back into funding grants for Cloquet youth," said Jeannie Kermeen, the new CEF executive director, noting that since October the non-profit organization has awarded nearly $59,000 in grants.

The money doesn't replace what the school district does, she explains. Instead it adds things the district probably couldn't otherwise afford. Things like science fair and inventors' fair, the eighth-grade trip to see an Anne Frank play, the Young Frontiers Respect Retreat, a first- and second-grade trip to visit and interview older people at Evergreen Knoll, and much more.

"It's cool because there's so much that federal and state funding doesn't provide," Kermeen said. "We partner with the school district so students have enhanced learning opportunities."

She explained the CEF has three grant cycles each year, and they invite teachers to submit grant requests each cycle. Members of the Cloquet Educational Foundation Board vote on which requests they will fund. They look at the budget, how many students it will serve and other factors when making their decisions.

The Blue Jean Ball is the CEF's biggest fundraiser of the year. After taking out expenses, Kermeen said — between ticket sales, games, raffles, live and silent auctions — this year's event raised $54,000. That's somewhere between the $47,000 raised two years ago and the $59,000 raised last year, former CEF executive director Lorna Mangan's swan song.

"When Lorna Mangan retired, she left a legacy — and very fortunately for me — a clear path to follow," Kermeen said, adding that Karrie Osvold, the CEF Board and more than 20 community volunteers deserved much of the credit for making this year's event such a success.

Kermeen marveled at the generosity of the 384 guests, the table sponsors, and those individuals and businesses who donated 96 silent auction items and 13 live auction items.

"It was such a thrill to see so many people enjoying themselves while raising money to support the mission of the CEF," she said. "There were many people who attended the event for the very first time and two of our new guests won really big prizes, which was very exciting!"

Over the past 16 years the Blue Jean Ball has raised nearly $400,000.