Everyone wins on this gamble

St, Agnes Cathedral School set to raise funds with Casino Night


Two years removed from an in-person fundraising event, the St. Agnes Cathedral School community will come together and gamble for a cause on May 14. The school board is hosting its first Casino Night, transforming the Parish Center on Quealy Place into a Las Vegas-like gambling hall to help fundraise for the 2022-23 school budget.

After purchasing tickets online, parents and guardians of St. Agnes students will receive casino chips to wager in games of roulette, Texas Hold’em, and blackjack. The first half of the night will help guests understand how each game is played before contests really get going. Toward the end of the night, chips earned by parents can be cashed in for raffle tickets in the hope of winning prizes for their children, such as going out to lunch with a teacher.

“We’re trying to give them some experiences because we were so socially distanced for so long,” Principal Cecilia St. John said.

The St. Agnes school board has met with St. John every other week since January to plan the revamped event. School board Vice President Michael Meehan said the idea of a Casino Night came from trying to differentiate from other events on people’s social calendars.

The board is one of a few parent groups; along with the Mothers’ Club, Fathers’ Club, and the Parents’ Association, that works with the school administration. Pre-pandemic, the board hosted a gala to help fund the school’s operating budget and lower tuition costs for the private school.

The gala was a black-tie event at the illustrious Garden City Hotel, but six years ago, the board and then-newly hired St. John started discussing changes to make the event less formal. The board and St. John were able to squeeze in the last major in-person event in February 2020, but had to adapt in 2021. Last year they held a virtual game show-like event and an appeal called “Action Today, Build for Tomorrow,” which made more than $140,000. Because of the low-cost of putting together the event, its net proceeds were triple what the school board would have received with the costs of an in-person event.

“I think a lot of that was attributed to people’s generosity during Covid,” Meehan said. “Everyone was somewhat isolated and really couldn’t go out on a Friday or Saturday night, so we had kind of a captive audience for it.”

The goal for the night varies by year, but usually is set at between $70,000 and $100,000.

Meehan said one of the lessons learned last year was that if the board could keep the cost down on the location of the event, more money could be devoted to the budget. But that doesn’t mean the school has skimped out on the location, as they are working with Lynbrook-based party company Casino Party 4U to create the feel of a real casino in the Parish Center. The company once even rented out equipment for Jennifer Lopez’s 40th birthday party for Marc Anthony. There will also be a jazz band to help set the mood, and local restaurant Kasey’s Kitchen and Cocktails will cater the event.

“The school community always seems to rally together,” school board President Lauren Smith said. “It touches my heart when I need help and I can just reach out to people like this.”

The school community includes the previous school board President Kerry Davi, who Smith referred to as a “rock star” for her work on the virtual event last year.

Parents still looking to purchase their tickets can visit stagnes-school.org/casino-ticket-purchase to order. As part of the school’s continued “Action Today, Build for Tomorrow” appeal, St. Agnes patrons can choose from the donation options ranging on the school’s website. Parents can also sponsor a casino table for between $300 and $500 on the school website.