Ava’s Army Sugarplum Ball Raises $40K for Leukemia Research

Starting with almost no budget but seeing a massive need, Amanda Reinert called on FadeUp Design Group—and received much more than event lighting

Starting a Non-Profit in Omaha

Amanda Reinert believed her life was perfect. Living a typical kind of fairytale with her husband Brady and daughter Ava, every day was full. Ava was an active, 4-year-old child, attending dance class, swim lessons, and taking preschool by storm.

Until one day she couldn’t. Without warning, Ava began having debilitating pain. It was so intense she couldn’t walk, and by week’s end, she couldn’t stand and sometimes, couldn’t even sit up.

Over the next four months and about 35 different tests, doctors determined that Ava had Lymphoblastic Leukemia. This disease was attacking Ava’s skeletal structure, hollowing out her bones and causing them to collapse.

She immediately went into treatment that lasted 800 days. Watching Ava fight for her life with cancer treatments made for adults, Amanda knew there had to be a better way.

Amanda quickly learned that there had been zero advances in pediatric leukemia treatments over the last 20 years. Since children are harder to treat and harder to test drugs on, most funding goes to adult treatment research because of its higher return on the investment.

Committed to making the next child’s battle easier, Amanda formed Ava’s Army, a sidekick partner to Sammy’s Superheroes..

Planning a Large-Scale Event from Scratch

Desperate to make an impact, Amanda wanted to raise funds for pediatric research. She started where most any mom would, hosting fundraisers in restaurants.

She managed to raise a few thousand dollars but knew it would barely make a dent in a hundred-thousand-dollar research project. So, she set her sights on something much bigger.

Amanda was originally from Eastern Iowa. There, each Christmas, the Daddy-Daughter Dance was the formal social event of the year. When she first had Ava, she was immediately looking forward to that special time for them.

But there was no event like that in Omaha, and Amanda knew this was the perfect way to create a fundraiser for Ava’s Army.

This would be an event that would raise research funds and make memories at the same time. Wanting to honor the innocence and imagination of childhood, the Reinerts created The Sugarplum Ball, planning it for December 7, 2019 (this year will be December 5, 2020). 

Amanda began cold calling to secure sponsors, and the Steppe Center generously agreed to donate their space to host the Ava’s Army fundraiser.

But the Reinerts had no idea what they were getting into. It was a huge leap, going from a restaurant fundraiser to a glamourous $200 per ticket event.

Amanda began to imagine what that kind of event would look like.

This ball had to be like stepping into an entirely different world. It had to be beyond picture-perfect. It had to not only look glamorous, it had to make the attendees feel glamorous.  It had to transport them to another place entirely.

But the thoughts of ticket sales, advertising, props, décor, staff, table settings, branding, a DJ, personalized everything – all on a zero budget—it immediately overwhelmed her. Amanda knew she couldn’t do this on her own. She needed help, and she needed it in a big way.

Bringing in the Event Production Specialists at FadeUp

Amanda earned the title of Mrs. Nebraska and Mrs. America in 2014. During her pageant days, she had been to special events where she remembered the innovative work of lighting designer, Heath Marrinan of FadeUp Design Group. 

She knew his approach could be a solution to so many items on her list.

Wanting the very best for The Sugarplum Ball, Amanda decided to take a chance and call Heath. She made her pitch to Heath, knowing he probably received hundreds of requests for donated services every year.

Heath and Amanda got together at the Steppe Center and immediately started talking through more than lighting—they started talking about design and event flow. Amanda said, “Not only was Heath a creative lighting designer, he knew how the event should look and feel from start to finish.”

Rachel Richards of STEP Group

After hearing Reinert’s story, not only did Heath Marrinan say yes, but he brought in a team of people to help. Heath introduced the Reinerts to Rachel Richards of STEP Group and Phil Grimpo of Inspirmedia. 

FadeUp, STEP Group, and Inspirmedia all donated their time, gear, and team to Ava’s Army and the Sugarplum Ball.

FadeUp ordered custom gobos to make her event logos larger than life. Inspirmedia brought multiple screens to display the logos too, so the design was seen from every angle in the room.

The room was decorated lavishly throughout. Ava’s Army brought in twenty-five Christmas trees and sugarplum ballerinas to interact with the children. STEP Group contributed what Amanda called “super-human sized snow globes.”

Sponsors also had the opportunity to decorate each of the twenty-five Christmas trees. A silent auction went on throughout the night to raise additional money.

In addition to the custom gobos with the ball’s logos, FadeUp:

  • Transformed the hotel ballroom by painting the walls with light in her chosen colors
  • Lit the sponsor-decorated Christmas trees throughout the room
  • Put individual lights on featured items on the dessert table
Phil Grimpo with a member of the Inspirmedia staff

FadeUp also brought in the RoadDog DJ Case for use by the event’s DJs,  Ryan and Breanne Ewing of Black Fox Productions.

The DJ case features an LED screen to enhance the music, feature an event’s logos and colors, and play videos. And Amada said, “The dance floor was never empty.”

Amanda said, “FadeUp captured the heart and purpose of the ball.”

Event attendees were blown away. With the help of FadeUp, The Sugarplum Ball was a major success, raising $40,000 with two-hundred sixty-six attendees in its first year!

Amanda said, “It was like they read our minds. FadeUp took our ideas and turned the venue—a cold, white, warehouse space—into a super glamorous sugarplum land. It was insane!”

More Than Event Lighting

FadeUp, Step Group, and Inspirmedia supported Ava’s Army in ways that Amanda and Brady could never have imagined. Through that collaboration, Ava’s Army created a dream-like event that’s already scheduled again for the 2020 Christmas season—December 5.

Because of the Sugarplum Ball’s success, Ava’s Army has the goal to raise $50,000 to fight pediatric leukemia at this year’s event. Tickets are $55 for adults, $35 for kids and $450 for a table of 10.

To keep up with Ava’s Army, learn about this year’s event, or contribute to leukemia research, follow Ava’s Army on Facebook.

Are you dreaming big dreams for your next event?

Is your hallmark event the way you’ve always dreamed it could be? Are you ready to take it up to the next level, creating more attention and focus to your cause?

At FadeUp, we’re creative collaborators that can take your vision and make it a reality. Our team knows how to take your ideas and put them into action.

Make your dream event a reality. Contact Heath here.