Vegas Oasis puts the fun in The AED Foundation's Fundraising Gala

It's that time of year again: time for The AED Foundation (AEDF) Fundraising Gala and Live Auction Presented by Ritchie Bros. Wait – it's not exactly that time of year.  In conjunction with Summit, this year's event has been moved to  May 24 to poolside at The Mirage in Las Vegas, 6-9 p.m.

To complement this year's theme – An Oasis of Fun – the AEDF Fundraising Gala and auction will occur outdoors rather than in the grand ballroom's traditional setting. "It will be cool, casual and fun," predicts Martin McCormack, AEDF associate director of development and workforce. "Imagine yourself at the Mirage pool, bidding on unique auction items, knowing the proceeds go to a great cause: The AED Foundation's mission."

While details are still being finalized, expect decorations, food and drink, and even the entertainment to look different with an outdoor setting and an oasis theme. But there's a deeper reason behind many of the changes. "We will ensure that everyone follows all health guidelines and COVID-19 protocols,"
McCormack states. "Outdoors is safer than indoors, and the timing is good because it will be warm."

The Mirage, an MGM resort, has instituted safety protocols that include mask requirements for all guests in public spaces, including the pool deck, and 6-foot social distancing policies. The hotel provides custom-built handwashing stations and hand sanitizer throughout the property.

This year, McCormack expects fewer attendees, but he believes the number will depend on the state health department's potential restrictions. The change of date could also impact attendance, but AED is organizing a lavish Vegas celebration for those who attend.

Gala means celebration
As part of the Summit, The AEDF's Annual Fundraising Gala brings together AED members, supporters of The AED Foundation, dealers, OEMs, lenders, consultants, and friends to celebrate the industry as well as a show of support.

"They come together for a common cause: to raise money for our industry," says Whit Perryman, CEO of Vermeer Texas-Louisiana, who has been involved since the first AEDF Fundraising Gala and has served as chairman on the AED and AEDF board of directors throughout his 30-year membership.

The AEDF Fundraising Gala has evolved, Perryman observes, from two or three private cocktail parties to one big event. That makes it a "great place to network," he says because everyone will be in one place. And with the ability to invite people, such as new dealers, it's an excellent opportunity to meet others in the industry.

"In these uncertain economic conditions, it's even more vital to retain and hire the best associates," says Eric Stiles, account executive/affinity marketing for Sentry Insurance, a sponsor of the AEDF Fundraising Gala. 

"We know from experience that prosperous companies have healthy relationships with their employees. The AED Foundation is a key to that relationship."

A cocktail hour kicks off the festivities and is followed by a short awards ceremony to recognize the industry's leading technicians formally. Seven winners will be introduced during The AED Foundation's - Knapheide Technicians of the Year Award ceremony as part of the Gala. The award highlights the importance of technicians in the industry, the shortage of qualified techs, the availability of jobs, and AED's ongoing efforts to educate and inspire people to enter the field. Afterwards, the Live Auction Presented by Ritchie Bros. begins.

Fundraising fun for a good cause
Established in 1991, The AED Foundation focuses on professional education and workforce development in the heavy equipment industry. Work that the Foundation does amplifies opportunities for future employees in the industry. AEDF is expanding its network of accredited diesel-equipment technology college programs and recognized high school programs, promoting the importance of investing in technical education programs, performing workforce research, offering management certifications, advocating for more federal investment in technical education, and increasing awareness of career opportunities.

The money raised at the AEDF Fundraising Gala provides essential funding for the Foundation's mission to support equipment dealers and to address the skills gap and technician shortage by providing educational opportunities. Along with the annual campaign and member investments, the annual Gala fundraiser underwrites The AED Foundation's work on behalf of the equipment distribution industry.

Last year, the auction raised over $250,000. The money went toward the support of The AED Foundation's programs and to address the equipment industry's technician shortage and skills gap, which contribute to a loss of $2.4 billion in potential annual revenue.

This year, it's more important than ever that AEDF meets its fundraising goals to continue to provide services to the construction equipment industry. 

Assisting in attaining that goal, Ritchie Bros., a 26-year AED member and host sponsor, will continue their decade-long tradition of calling the Gala's live auction. Established in 1958 and well-known in the construction equipment industry, Ritchie Bros. is a global asset management and disposition company that provides end-to-end solutions for buying and selling used heavy equipment, trucks, and other assets in industries such as construction, transportation, agriculture, energy, oil and gas, mining, and forestry. They call about 100 charity auctions and other community events each year.

"The Foundation values the partnership with Ritchie Bros.," says Jason Blake, executive vice president and COO of The AED Foundation. "Without their strong support, our auction and fundraising efforts from this event would not be as successful."

Up for bid
"If you remind people what the auction's for, they are generous," says Perryman, who has been a winning bidder in previous years. "It’s better than just writing a check. “It’s more fun to bid on items for a good cause like this."

Despite unusual circumstances created by the global pandemic, McCormack says it wasn't difficult to solicit donations for this year's auction. "We have a lot of generous investors who understand the impact of supporting the industry, as well as some new companies who want exposure."

Because some prizewinners were unable to use their items last year, thanks to pandemic-related restrictions and quarantines, McCormack got creative in coming up with more COVID-friendly auction items this year.

"The Gala is always a lot of fun," says Darren Grahsl, senior vice president and sales team lead at BOK Financial, as well as treasurer for The AED Foundation. "It's an important event, as the money raised from the Gala and auction enables the Foundation to pursue its mission of workforce development within the industry."

As a longtime AEDF supporter, BOK Financial is one of the sponsors of the AEDF Fundraising Gala and will once again have a suite during Summit. "The Summit provides us a chance to meet with a number of people in just a few days, and the suite allows us to do it in a comfortable setting," Grahsl notes. He says BOKF values the opportunity to interact in person with their customers.

"We are excited to be there," Grahsl continues, pointing out that it will be 16 months since the last Summit. "It's the biggest event of the year for us, and while this year's Summit might be a little different than in years past, we are expecting great things."

The show must go on
COVID-19 has presented some challenges in planning this year's AEDF Fundraising Gala, but, as Perryman says, "COVID-19 is a disruption, not an inhibitor."

Thanks to the support of generous donors, the auctioneering skills of Ritchie Bros., and the oasis provided by the Mirage pool deck, this year's Gala will be a joyous and memorable occasion not to be missed.

As McCormack reminds everyone, Gala tickets are separate, not part of the Summit fee, and can be purchased up to the last day.

Purchase tickets and packages at

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