Flight to Luxury
The 2015 Flight to Luxury event dazzled over 1,000 guests – and just happened to raise over $1,000,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver.
Flight to Luxury was held in Signature Flight Support and XJet’s Centennial Airport hangars – and Jet Linx Denver was in on the action. “Guests walk through the Jet Linx Denver lobby to register and get their nametags, then walk to the Signature hangar to do for the first part of the cocktail hour, and then transition to the XJet hangar for the runway show and auction,” explained Matt Hall, Jet Linx Denver Director of Sales. “This year they had about 1,100 people attend the event, and set a fundraising record.” Hall enjoys the overall atmosphere of the event. “It’s a really unique atmosphere for networking. Everyone comes out for this event. Between the people who are there, the support the Boys & Girls Club has and the physical aspect with the cars, airplanes, fashion show and auction, it tells a good story.”
The event was started six years ago by Larry Mueller, founder of Cuvee, a luxury travel and lifestyle brand with exclusively owned and managed properties. Mueller attended the Jack A. Vickers Invitational at Castle Pines to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver several years back, and was immediately inspired to help Boys & Girls Clubs in their mission to help the kids that need it most. “I took the time to visit the club and then took a lot of additional time to meet the staff and actually work with one of the families,” Mueller remembered. “As a result of that, I was determined to do whatever I could to help this great organization.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs serve an important purpose, in Denver and across the nation. “The Boys & Girls Club has been around for over 100 years, and in Denver 52 years,” said John Barry, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. “Boys & Girls Clubs deals with the whole child. We have clubs that are safe and kids can have fun, and it’s programmatic because we have academic and careers, character and leadership, and healthy lifestyle choices. We try to maximize the advantage of every child.” The Club has a broad influence in Denver, with 15 facilities reaching 10,000 kids from 6 to 18 years old, but Barry sees the need for the Club to continue to grow. “We are meeting probably 10% of the need for kids to have something to do after school,” he explained. “Ninety percent of the population of kids don’t have anything to do after school. We meet a need in the sense that 90% of our students and club members are in the free and reduced lunch program, a measure of poverty.”
Barry’s passion for the Boys & Girls Clubs’ mission is obvious. He joined the team as President & CEO in 2014, after spending 7 years as superintendent of Aurora Public Schools, the sixth largest district in Colorado. He has a deep understanding of public education and the importance of after-school programming in promoting the whole child, and speaks with conviction. “We talk about 10,000 kids, 15 clubs, and we charge two dollars a year,” he said. “And we feed them every day. Dinner is served during the school year, and lunch during the summertime – all at two dollars a year.”
To be able to provide long-term support to area children at a nominal fee, the Boys & Girls Clubs require fundraising from other sources. “We have to raise – from scratch, every year – $15 million,” Barry said. “Flight to Luxury is one of the seven major events that we have during the year and it has proven to be a fun event for people to come to, but it also clearly makes a sizeable contribution. This year, we went over a million dollars gross, and we did that for the first time.” Events like Flight to Luxury make up 30 or 35% of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ fundraising efforts, according to Barry. “About 25% of our funding comes from state and federal sources, grants,” he said. The remainder of the budget comes from individual contributions and foundations.
“A lot of us go to a lot of fundraising events,” Mueller said. “You often sit around a round table in a hotel banquet room. You eat pretty average food, you listen to speeches on stage and it often is something that’s not very enjoyable. So what I wanted to do was to use Cuvee’s expertise in creating experiences and create an event that people would want to go to, versus feel they have to go to it. That was the underlying goal, to create an experience where people really wanted to be there, and by doing that, we would actually bring in more people and expose more people to this great organization.” To make the event enticing even to those who weren’t familiar with Boys & Girls Clubs, Mueller called in a friend for help. “[Jet Linx Denver Base Partner & President] Jeff Puckett is a good friend, and he said ‘Why don’t we do it at a hangar?’” Mueller agreed that a private jet hangar would be a tempting location for Denver’s elite. “[Jeff] played a very key role in the first couple of years in helping us secure the hangars and get the planes,” he said.
In addition to the location, Mueller had other ideas to make the event stand out among other fundraising efforts in Denver. “I thought that people we want at the event would love to see private jets, super sports stars, some of the best made automobiles in the world, and great food – I wanted to have the top restaurants in Denver participate,” he said. His vision was an elaborate affair to remember – and it worked: the event is highly regarded throughout Denver as a premier fundraising event, with a highly social cocktail hour while guests mingle around planes and beautiful automobiles. “We bring in the fashion show as a vehicle to get people to sit down and really enjoy the top boutiques in Denver and some of their great fashion. We also included some major designers outside of Denver,” Mueller explained.
Ashley LeRoy, Jet Linx Denver Client Services Specialist, sees a special side of Flight to Luxury: she’s walked as a model in the runway fashion show for five years. “I work with a local agency, and I booked it initially through them,” she said. LeRoy enjoys the chance to work with one of Denver’s biggest events. “The event has gotten so much bigger. It’s always a fun show, with the best of the best who’s doing it. Bobbi Brown’s team did the makeup and Matthew Morris did the hair – they do the hair for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.” Dennis Basso and Project Runway winner Mondo Guerrera were two of the designers to present in the show.
Flight to Luxury is the ultimate party, but Mueller ensures that the crowd remembers why they’re there. “We have this opportunity by sitting people down to give back in a fun way and learn about the impact that Boys & Girls Clubs has on our kids, who often come from difficult situations, and what that means to our community if we can really get these kids on a right path,” he said. “Boys & Girls Clubs is the vehicle that helps them in school and improve their study habits, engage in very positive activities. We try to get those messages across, and it’s less about a speech: we use the kids on stage, but we have to review things with the audience.” The event has grown substantially over the past six years, with the first year attracting around 100 guests and raising around $40,000 and the 2015 event bringing 1,000 guests to raise over a million dollars. Mueller’s passion is recognized by all involved in the event. “[He] is someone who has just put his heart and soul into this [event] every year to get out for kids,” Barry explained.
At the end of the night, patrons have enjoyed a wonderful evening out for a great cause. “The reason why programs like Boys & Girls Clubs are so important is because the generation of children we have in school today are going to experience something that none of us had to deal with,” Barry said. “They are not going to compete for jobs in Denver, or Colorado, or the United States: they are truly going to compete for jobs internationally and globally. We have to use all of our resources: schools, clubs, families, businesses, politicians, all of the stakeholders who need to make that investment in our future leaders so we can be truly competitive in the world.”