ACT Boston’s First Annual Gala

By Laura Carroll

“We should have a gala!” Megan Carter, ACT (Active Citizens of Tufts) Boston’s Secretary, gleamed at the thought of the idea during my first Board meeting. Megan’s small idea sparked into at the first annual ACT Boston gala held on Saturday, February 4th 2012.

ACT Boston was founded in 2010 with the mission to unite “alumni of Tufts University’s undergraduate, graduate and professional schools through public service opportunities and educational forums for the purpose of building a stronger, healthier and safer greater Boston community.” ACT Boston has helped build a home with Habitat for Humanity, collected and served food at homeless shelters, runs a alumni-student mentoring program, participates in the annual Project Bread Walk for Hunger and much more.* I joined the ACT Boston Board in October 2011 to build a relationship between Friedman and ACT Boston. The timing could not have been better. Each year, ACT Boston selects a theme on which to focus their community efforts. This year’s theme was nutrition and health.

The gala was a fundraiser to help promote the work of the Friedman school and Future Chefs, a “nonprofit school-to-career program that unites Greater Boston students with a community of culinary arts professionals, teachers and caring citizens to help pave the path as they transition from high school to adulthood.”

Ideas for the gala started flowing immediately and the planning quickly ensued after my first Board meeting in October. And after months of work, the gala was a big success!

The gala was held on Boston’s waterfront at Mass Challenge, an organization to help connect start-up companies with the resources they need to succeed. An unfinished office space was transformed into a stylish venue with creative table decorations, white string lights, and banners supporting Friedman, Tufts Alumni, and ACT Boston. The tables were adorned with asparagus-wrapped candles, glass bowls filled with fruit, and mini-Friedman foam apples to highlight this year’s nutrition and health theme. The floor-to-ceiling windows provided beautiful views of Boston’s waterfront.

At the start of the event, Tufts’ a cappella group sQ performed while people arrived. The evening’s program followed with drinks, appetizers and desserts, including a variety of donated foods such as stuffed mushrooms, crostinis, fruit, vegetable and cheese platters, chicken and vegetable quesadillas, and ribs. The highlights of the night were a keynote address by alumna Tara Mardigan, MS, MPH, RD, and the silent auction, which featured a diverse selection of donated items, such as Museum of Science passes and Boston Red Sox tickets. The generous food and auction donations helped ACT Boston offset costs and raise more money for Friedman and Future Chefs.

As an alumna of Friedman and a Boston-based nutritionist, Mardigan was the ideal keynote speaker for the event. She graduated from Friedman in 2002 with her dual masters (MS/MPH) in nutrition communication and public health. Today, she counsels clients at Levinson-Harris Medical Group as well as cancer patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In addition, Mardigan is the nutritionist for the Boston Red Sox and Harvard University Athletics. Mardigan’s speech included three stories from her life and three lessons she’s learned from those stories. Her first story was an inspirational story about a cancer patient she worked with; the second story focused on how she became the nutritionist for the Red Sox and how opportunities can appear in unlikely places. Her final story was about the power of Twitter and how social media can be leveraged to communicate important nutrition and public health messages. Mardigan’s speech was engaging, inspiring, and humorous.

The night came to a close as people enjoyed the last of the chocolates and cupcakes and made final bids on the silent auction items. The ambiance in the room was casual and fun. Despite a few minor malfunctions (including a few fallen banners and broken coat racks), the night was a hit and the beginning of a great tradition! By the end of the evening, ACT Boston raised over $4,000 for Friedman** and Future Chefs. I’m already looking forward to attending next year’s gala!

*If you’re interested in learning more about ACT Boston and/or getting involved in future events you can find them on Facebook and Twitter, or check out their website!

**The money raised for Friedman at the gala is partially going to Financial Aid and the rest will be allocated by Student Council to support community service efforts put on by Friedman students, faculty, staff, and organizations.

Photos courtesy of ACT Boston.

Laura Carroll is a second year MS-Nutrition/MPH student. She is Co-Social Chair on the Friedman Student Council and serves on the Jumbo’s Kitchen board. Laura is passionate about working to prevent childhood obesity through policy change and communication strategies. She loves staying active, cooking, and eating! 

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