With a toy or two in hand, young professionals gathered for a night of entertainment and a good cause at the fourth annual Young Milwaukee Holiday Gala. As many as 1,000 toys were donated at the event, and Journey House will distribute them just in time for Christmas.
Dr. Michele Bria, CEO of Journey House, said the organization struggles to ensure enough toys for the families it serves during the holiday season. Thanks to the event’s success, all families will be blessed with gifts, she added.
“It’s just a great …relief for parents,” Bria said. “They’ll be able to have Christmas for their kids.”
Michael Kleber, vice president of Young Milwaukee Charitable Organization, Inc. (YMCO), is the founder and organizer of the Holiday Gala. After attending a similar charity event in the Chicago area, he decided to grab a handful of friends and replicate it in Milwaukee.
“We were very nervous going into it,” Kleber said. “We didn’t know how well we were going to do and if people were even going to show up.”
Started in 2010, the event has grown bigger each year, according to Kleber. This year YMCO sold out all 900 tickets in two weeks. YMCO connects young professionals with charitable causes in the Milwaukee area by hosting events and volunteer opportunities.
Kleber said the day he distributes toys to the children is one of his favorite of the year. “You see the smiles on their faces and how excited they are to actually receive a gift for Christmas,” he added.
For Bria, the Holiday Gala was magical and full of energy. “It was a great way for young professionals to give back to Journey House and the families we serve here,” she said.
In addition to the monetary and toy donations at the gala, Kyle Weatherly, president of Solaris, donated $4,000, which will be used to purchase toys for children served by Layton Boulevard West Neighbors and Walnut Way.