Home Our Diocese Coronavirus forces Nativity Prep to move primary fundraiser, Ignite the Night, online

Coronavirus forces Nativity Prep to move primary fundraiser, Ignite the Night, online

Nativity Prep alumnus Jabre Lolley, center, visited with Kareem, left, and Jaysn on one of his trips to his alma mater. Photo courtesy of Nativity Prep

The list of events postponed or otherwise affected by the coronavirus-forced shutdown is a long one, and for some organizations, but some organizations are trying to blunt the negative by adapting to the current reality. That is the case with Nativity Prep, the tuition-free school for boys in Wilmington.

The school’s biggest fundraiser, “Ignite the Night,” was scheduled for April 4 at Dupont Country Club. Obviously, the physical event has been canceled, but the school is hosting a virtual live auction to close as much of the financial gap as possible. It will begin April 4 at 10 a.m. and run through 10 p.m. on April 9.

Andrea Rotsch, Nativity’s director of advancement, said Ignite normally brings in about $250,000, which represents a quarter of the school’s budget.

“For 16 years, this has been a big part of our budget. Having to cancel it is a huge hit for an organization that has no tuition and no other source of income. We fundraise 100 percent of our budget every year,” she said.

Nativity currently enrolls 43 boys in fifth through eighth grade, but Rotsch said that should be closer to 50 next year.

This year’s auction was going to feature several Nativity alumni. Graduates were set to emcee and to deliver the keynote speech, prayer and reflection. One of the goals of the event is to let benefactors know why Nativity is important to Wilmington, Rotsch said.

“The best way to do that is to have our alumni speak,” she said.

The oldest alums are in their mid- to late 20s, she continued. This year’s scheduled keynote speaker, Liam Carpenter, graduated from Brown University last year. Another, Jabre Lolley, went to Saint Mark’s High School and Shepherd University before playing two seasons in the Indoor Football League. He has been back to speak to the current students.

Most of the support for Nativity comes from individual donors, who account for approximately 85 percent of its funding. The rest comes from businesses, and the school receives some support from local foundations.

Rotsch said the school had procured about $100,000 in sponsorships before the event was canceled. Fortunately, the sponsors have stuck with Nativity, she added. Every dollar is important for the school.

“It’s not like we can trim. We don’t have plus in our budget. Our budget is barebones, pay salaries, pay for our lights,” she said. “There’s nothing we can cut. Our kids do field trips, which is obviously not going to happen this year, so we’re saving that money, but it’s like $3,000. They don’t go on major field trips.”

The coronavirus pandemic is also threatening another of Nativity Prep’s signature programs. Each summer, students spend two weeks at DeSales University, which is run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who also established Nativity. The boys spend that time in class, eating in the dining hall and living in a college dorm.

“It’s a huge part of what they do because it let’s them envision themselves as college students on a college campus,” Rotsch said. “And for kids — many of them have never been out of the city of Wilmington or the state of Delaware, or have never seen anybody go to college — that’s huge. They see themselves as somebody who might actually do that.”

Former Nativity Prep president and director of development Father Richard DeLillio, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, started the school’s fundraiser 16 years ago. It was called In Vino Veritas and was a wine and art auction. It has since changed to Ignite the Night.

There are currently 27 items available for bid. They range from brewery tours to meals to sports and concert tickets to scholarships for Nativity students. Donors can also bid to have brunch at home that includes Mass with Oblate Father Brian Zumbrum. The bid items have been donated by community groups, businesses and individuals.

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