Stronger Together returns as major western Clark County event

With about $100,000 raised during the first-time event, Stronger Together is back this July with hopes of raising even more funds to support local community organizations and individuals. 

"Overall, we had a big success," says Scott Griffith, a New Carlisle Rotary Club member and a Stronger Together organizer. "We were able to write a check for $25,000 to each of the three organizations. We were hoping for that, but we didn't know if we'd make it because it was our first year, and now we hope this year will exceed our first year."

Stronger Together is the creation of a collaboration of the New Carlisle Rotary Club, Tecumseh Strong and The Barrett Strong Foundation

The rotary was launched in New Carlisle in 1972. Tecumseh Strong was formed after Tecumseh Local Schools student Collin Griffin lost his battle with cancer in 2018. And, The Barrett Strong Foundation was created in 2019 after Northwestern Local Schools student Barrett Fitzsimmons also lost his battle with cancer. 

"It's great for all three organizations," says Jacob Berner, director of Tecumseh Strong and an event organizer. "Our hearts are all in the same place. To accomplish what we did last year, I was completely humbled and excited by it to be able to see the benefits coming out of it."

The groups joined forces in 2021 for the inaugural event that drew 325 attendees to the Evans Cattle Company ranch for a fundraising dinner unlike most.

The business casual event is hosted outside and includes more than a nice sit-down meal typically associated with a fundraising dinner. 

In addition to the Evans Cattle steak dinner, guest tickets include high-end bourbon tastings, live and silent auctions, fundraising games, and live concerts on stage at the venue.

"It's a fun-filled, energetic evening unlike anything else," Berner says. "We want people to have no pressure to pack up and leave. We want everyone to feel free to sit back and relax and enjoy the music."

The community-focused atmosphere is one of the major attractions to the Stronger Together event, leading organizers to increase the size to add enough seating for 480 attendees this year. With only about 40 seats left and still weeks until the July 9 event was a move in the right direction, Griffith says. Visit www.StrongerTogether.one to snag one of the remaining seats or sponsor an entire table.

The 2022 event will stay on Evans Cattle property, but it will move to the new Evans Family Ranch site at 11140 Milton-Carlisle Road, New Carlisle, which houses the garden center, fun center, general store and Bruno's Corral restaurant/ice cream shop.

The new location will have a larger tent - ensuring the event goes on rain or shine - and more auction prizes to give more people chances to win, says Griffith. Organizers are still accepting donations, so any individual or business interested in donating a prize can reach out to Lana Fitzsimmons at [email protected].

And Stronger Together's growth also means an increased fundraising goal. 

Though ticket prices held steady at $150 per seat, organizers decided to increase the fundraising goal to $150,000 in hopes of increased donation support through the auctions. 

Also new this year is the transition of the silent auction items to an online platform. Though the items will be on-site for attendees to view in person, they will be posted to the Stronger Together platform that will allow both people at the event and outside the event to bid at the same time. To register, visit www.StrongerTogether.one.

Raffle tickets are also being sold for a 2002 Ford Mustang GT convertible. Details and tickets can be found here

The live auction, however, will still take bids in person during the event only. Items this year include a set from Keener & Schultz Fine Woodworks, Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and a 5 carat diamond necklace, among many other things.

Northwestern High School graduate Kate Hasting will return as the on-stage headliner this year, with Ashley Martin - also a Northwestern grad - performing as the opening act.

Heritage Catering will be cooking the food this year, and Indian Creek Distrillery's resident bourbon expert Joe Duer will be behind the bar at the bourbon experience to share tasting details with attendees.

Dinner will once again be served by Tecumseh Strong student athletes, and Northwestern High School student athletes will help with event set up and tear down.

"The students who are benefitting from the funds raised during this event are some of the same students who will be helping to make the event happen," Berner says.

The funds raised in 2021 were used locally by each group to continue its mission. 

Griffith says that among the many things the Rotary used the money for included adding more scholarships for graduating seniors who were going to college and also adding scholarships for graduates choosing to pursue careers in skilled trades. 

Tecumseh Strong was able to fund $10,000 in scholarships to seniors and used funding to support youth sports at Tecumseh, including covering the participation cost for some youth sports, such as football and cheer.

The Barrett Strong Foundation used most $25,000 for scholarships graduating seniors from across Clark County, says Lana Fitzsimmons, co-founder of The Barrett Strong Foundation and a Stronger Together organizer. Funds were also given to Nationwide Children's Hospital toward its rare pediatric cancer research program.

"It's important to have this event because we can come together with other local organizations to support each other and share our communities," Fitzsimmons says. "By working with each other, we are bringing people together to learn about all three organizations and find out how we can help one another."

Griffith says organizers will spend the next few weeks putting the finishing touches on the event and continue having weekly meetings to ensure the guests' experience is top notch. 

"It's a night you don't want to miss," Fitzsimmons says.

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.