By Sherrie Norris
It was everything an evening with Elvis should’ve been: great music and savory, southern, comfort food — and a whole lotta shakin’ going on. Thankfully, that “shakin’” included folks reaching deep into their pockets and purses for funds to benefit the youngsters served by Western Youth Network, and specifically, summer camp, through the Sonny Sweet Scholarship Fund.
The Thursday, August 22 event at the Harvest House in Boone was a complete sell-out, which was no surprise to those behind the scenes.
We all know that the High Country community is very generous when it comes to helping children — and we also know that everyone who knows and loves Sonny Sweet will go the extra mile to support his endeavors.
It all proved true with this much-anticipated event. And no one left disappointed.
According to WYN’s Executive Director, Jennifer Grubb Warren, who described the generous community outreach as “a game changer,”
the numbers are still coming in, “But it appears we netted approximately $20,000 from the event. I’m very grateful to Sonny and Bricca Sweet for their vision with this fund, as well as everyone on the planning committee who has worked for over a year to pull together this event.”
Warren added, “We are, of course, also grateful to everyone who showed up that night and those who made additional donations. On top of being a wonderful fundraiser for our Sonny Sweet Scholarship fund, it was also such a fun event!”
“The Sweet High Country Salute: An Evening with Elvis” included a delicious Southern-style dinner complete with fried chicken and banana pudding that would’ve made Elvis very proud, provided by Casa Rustica/CR Catering, along with complimentary beverages and raffles. And, of course, it would not have been possible without the world-famous and award-winning Elvis Tribute Artist, Stephen Freeman and Echoes of a Legend Show Band.
“Elvis” had fans of all ages taking a trip down memory lane with his larger-than-life stage performance (with all the moves!) and a few hugs along the way, welcoming audience participation as he made his way through the crowd. He chose several songs to compliment the cause, including, “If I Can Dream?,” the compelling lyrics helping to literally set the tone for an evening of giving and receiving.
Everyone’s favorite local deejay and radio personality, Bill Fisher from High Country Radio, joined Warren on stage throughout the evening, sharing testimonials and highlights of WYN and its accomplishments. The added energy and enthusiasm of WYN representative Jenny Koehn led the scholarship appeal midway through the evening, drawing in several added contributions from compassionate patrons.
Guests were earlier encouraged to dress in outfits representing the Elvis era, which also proved to be a huge hit, with poodle skirts, rolled-up blue jeans, penny loafers, “the sideburns”’ and more, adding to the fun.
Acknowledgement was given to Harvest House Performing Arts Venue for hosting the event and to the following financial sponsors: Allen Wealth Management, LLC, Mast General Store, The Pipes & Flanigan Families, M-Prints, Inc., High Country Chapter Military Officers Association, Dream Vacations-A Cruise One Company, Greenway Medical Associates, Norwood Commercial Appliances, Elk Ridge Farms; In-kind sponsors included: Casa Rustica/CR Catering, Mountain Times Publications, High Country Press, Carolina Mountain Living, Ray’s Weather Center, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Lost Province Brewing Company, Ingles Markets, Boone Apetit.
How Sweet It Is
The event, while paying tribute to WYN, was also a reflection of Sonny Sweet’s contributions to the community and an organization near and dear to his heart, and that of his wife, Bricca Sweet.
It was soon after Sweet’s diagnosis four years ago with terminal lung cancer that he decided to establish a lasting legacy that would help kids. He partnered with WYN to establish a scholarship fund to help less fortunate youth participate in the life-changing programs offered through the nonprofit organization.
With a mission “to build youth of character and confidence so that every young person in the High Country reaches their full potential” —coupled with its vision “to create a community in which every child, regardless of their circumstance, thrives,” — WYN was the perfect choice for Sweet’s focus.
For over 30 years, WYN has provided high quality enrichment programs after school and in the summer, including mentoring, tutoring, substance abuse prevention and service learning. What better way to be remembered, than as someone keeping the dream alive for dozens of High Country youth?
As a man who loves his hometown and who served his country with valor and honor, Sweet’s diagnosis, which was quite grim at the time, left his family and friends brokenhearted.
Thankfully, since the scholarship fund kicked off in August 2015 with an event at the Boone Golf Club, both Sweet and the fund have survived and thrived beautifully.
The Sonny Sweet Scholarship Fund has already provided several area youth with full scholarships for WYN’s summer programs. Even before the recent event, over $80,000 had been raised for the fund, which is managed by Jonathan Allen Wealth Management.
According to those working closely with the organization, the fund will provide an enduring legacy of Sonny’s commitment to helping youth be all that they can be. “With an increasing number of High Country youth needing these motivational real-world learning experiences and academic help to succeed in school and life, it is Sweet’s hope that this scholarship will also continue to grow,” a spokesperson added.
The Sweets also formed a scholarship planning committee with members George Brudzinski, Kristin Copeland, Frankie Groff, Mary Hall, Brenda Lowman, Will O’Malley, Julia Roberts, and Wysteria White — tasked to plan events that will continue to raise awareness of and funds for WYN’s Sonny Sweet Scholarship.
As a nonprofit organization, WYN is a High Country United Way member and all donations to the Sonny Sweet Scholarship Fund are fully charitable.
Even if you missed the enchanting evening, your tax-deductible donations to the Sonny Sweet Scholarship Fund continue to be welcomed and appreciated year-round. You may mail your gifts to WYN at 155 WYN Way, Boone, NC 28607
For more information, visit SonnySweetScholarship@gmail.com, or call Bricca Sweet (828-964-8406) or Julia Roberts, WYN Development Director (828-264-5174).
Scenes from the recent “Sweet High Country Salute: An Evening with Elvis,” help paint the picture of the fun and fellowship enjoyed by those in attendance at the fundraising event for Western Youth Network. Photos by Lonnie Webster