If anyone needs an excuse to dress up, especially at Johnson where students sometimes go to class in pajamas, here is one: Casino Night, sponsored and planned by the SGA. This year’s theme is Black and White Gala, a classy celebration of the 40th anniversary of Casino Night and the 30th anniversary of United Way in Lamoille County, where money from the ticket sales go.
Last year, the SGA raised $1,100 and sold 173 tickets. This year, they’re hoping to reach 200 tickets.
The obvious attractions are the casino games, including blackjack, roulette, slot machines and poker, all played with fake money given at the beginning of the event. There will also be finger food, a DJ, a photo booth and prizes donated by local businesses including Green Mountain Coffee, Ben and Jerry’s and Smugglers’ Notch. Students bet on prizes with their winnings at the end of the night. Everyone is encouraged, but not required, to bring out those black and white dresses, dress pants, suits, and ties.
“Personally, it’s such an honor to plan this event for two years in a row,” Mary Fafard, head of the planning committee, said, “and to be a part of the 40th year is really special. Planning this event has been the highlight of my college experience. When we see students having fun for a good cause it really is an unexplainable feeling of pride.”
Other SGA members are proud, too. “It feels good to be continuing something that’s been happening for 40 years, knowing that I had something to do with it,” Brendan Walsh, SGA member and a senior, said. “My favorite part about putting this whole thing together is knowing that all the time and effort we put into it pays off in the end. It’s one of the biggest events on campus, so it’s nice seeing it be successful.”
Kate Abdel-Fatah, a junior and SGA member, said, “I’m really excited for the theme, because it’s classy. I like the prizes; we usually give away pretty good prizes, and people are pretty stoked about that. Hopefully I win some, but that probably won’t happen.
“Last year I was on the committee,” she continued, recalling her past experience. “It’s very stressful. You have to put on this big event, and you’re stressed that people aren’t going to come and be interested, so when you actually see people are there, participating, and having fun, that’s my favorite part, knowing that we did something successful.”
The SGA not only sponsors and plans Casino Night, but even works the event. Walsh is going to check tickets at the door and deal at the blackjack table, but isn’t sure exactly what he’s going to wear yet. “I need to find nice clothes from home,” he said, “which people should remember to bring after break.”
It’s not only rewarding for those who plan the event, and it’s not only fun for the attendees. Good comes out of this. “The United Way does so much good for our community,” Fafard said. “They really deserve this fun event, and all of the proceeds that we make go directly to them helping people in our area.” In addition to ticket sales, SGA members raise money by asking for donations from the faculty and staff the day of the event.
United Way helps fund several programs, including Meals on Wheels, Lamoille County Mental Health Services and more. Some of their direct service programs include but aren’t limited to New Foundations, which helps single parents get a degree as well as gainful employment, and the Lamoille County Wood Bank, which distributes firewood to low-income seniors, veterans and families.
Jim Curran, the current director of the United Way of Lamoille County and alum of Johnson State, said, “We’re very grateful for the Johnson State SGA for putting on this event every year and all the work they do.”
Curran and other members of the United Way of Lamoille County will be attending in black and white, and students are encouraged to talk with them. “We’re here as a resource,” Curran added.
Casino Night will be held Mar. 10, from 8 p.m. to midnight in Stearns. Tickets will be available at the door, but to reserve tickets, the public can call the SGA office: 802-635-1232.