The stars aligned for the inaugural PKT Alamo Alumni Association Gala in San Antonio in June, raising record amounts for scholarships through an incredible evening of brotherhood and fellowship.
A few examples of kismet:
When organizers put the event online looking for a band, the person who responded just happened to be a brother who is in a nine-piece group called the San AnTunes, a popular wedding and event band.
Patty Jacobson, the sister of the late Chuck Herrera, a PKT brother, spent 28 years in the hospitality field and scouted several hotels and scrutinized contracts before they decided on the historic Sheraton Gunter Hotel, which served not only as the location of the gala, but as a destination for the attendees who traveled to San Antonio for the gala. The hotel is located near the popular River Walk.
And Manny Gonzalez of the PKT Foundation Board, worked tirelessly lining up major donors through his many business connections. And some of those donors had no connection to PKT, other than a desire to help the cause and support the mission.
All that kismet – and hard work – paid off as 93 people attended and raised $20,000 to benefit PKT scholarship recipients.
“It was way beyond our expectations,” said Lou Luera, Vice President of the Association, who spearheaded efforts to go all out with a major fundraiser this year. “We wanted to do the best that we could and make it as nice as possible so that people would want to come back next year.”
And that happened. After the event, attendees were pulling organizers aside wanting to know the date of next year’s event and one even asked if they could have two galas next year.
The event impressed outgoing PKT President Adrian Gonzalez who considers the Association as a model for other chapters looking to reinvigorate their fundraising efforts. “The Alamo Alumni Association has become the premier association in the country,” he said. “They exemplify servant leadership at its best.”
The decision to put on a gala was not without a lot of discussion and debate. “When I became president (of the Alamo Alumni Association) I was hesitant at first,” said Danny Saenz, noting the risks involved in planning and executing such a large – and different – event. The idea was presented to the membership and, once approved, they “took off running.” The various committees were assigned, action items were developed and then it was a matter of doing the hard work necessary, Saenz said, who noted that everyone “stayed in their lane,” working together to achieve their goal of providing scholarships for PKT students in need.
Saenz said they began planning a “dress” event. Although tuxes were optional, a professional appearance was emphasized. Dignitaries such as the local sheriff, elected officials and veterans were invited, along with the association membership. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by a member of the VFW.
Along with formal dress, organizers wanted a band, not a DJ, to perform. As mentioned earlier, the listing on gigmaster.com resulted in John Garza, a PKT pledge back in 1983 at Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas, responding. “I moved to San Antonio in 2004 and started a band with a friend and my stepson,” he said. “We formed The San Antunes as a variety band playing San Antonio-style music including oldies, disco, Tejano (Texas-Mexican music), Conjunto (accordion-based ensemble music) and Top 40. We have grown into a 9-piece band and play weddings, private parties, and corporate events.” He said they recently played for one of the Democratic presidential candidates.
When Garza noticed the lead online and saw it was sent by a PKT brother, he did not hesitate about calling them back. “I met with the committee soon afterwards and pitched the band as the only one for the Gala, since I was a PKT brother myself,” Garza said. “Of course we connected immediately and were hired to perform.”
The selection of The Gunter Hotel, made possible by hospitality expert Jacobson, resulted in the selection of a hotel and an event location that was desirable for those traveling from outside the city. “If you want to do this right, plan it like a wedding,” advised Jacobson, noting that a hotel would provide everything needed such as linens, parking, food and décor. And the result would be elegant.
The Sheraton Gunter, adjacent to the popular River Walk, was built in 1909 and just celebrated its 110th anniversary, according to its website. On the National Register of Historic Places, it’s located in the heart of San Antonio.
On a personal note, not only was Jacobson giving back to honor her late brother, but she was also thanking the Fraternity for its love and support during the difficult days after his sudden death last September. “When he passed the group rallied around me, helped me get through his celebration of life.”
Organizers of this successful event always kept in mind the goal of the fundraiser: to help brothers attend college.
Last year’s scholarship recipient, Diego Lugo, took time out this summer break while working for his dad to note how much the scholarship helped him. “In past semesters, I’ve struggled financially because my parents didn’t want me to work during the school year,” said Lugo. “This money helped me make ends meet.”
The senior at University of Texas at Austin is majoring in kinesiology, the study of the body’s muscles and joints. One of four children, he wrote an essay to get selected as the scholarship winner. He hopes to attend medical school to become a sports psychologist. The fraternity motto “give, expecting nothing thereof,” means a lot to him as he has volunteered at the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin.
Gonzalez can’t say enough about Alamo Alumni Association’s willingness to change its thought process in order to come up with such a successful event. “Mentally, they thought outside the box and developed a new mindset.”
PKTAAA’s 2nd annual Gala is tentatively scheduled for June, 2020 in San Antonio, Tx. We hope you can make it!