SRU rolls out red carpet for nonprofit “stars” at upcoming gala


Awards on a table

The stars of the nonprofit sector will be recognized with trophies resembling Oscar Awards at the Nonprofit Organization Academy Awards Dinner and Gala, April 25 at the Russell Wright Alumni House.

April 11, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When attendees arrive for the 2018 Nonprofit Organization Academy Awards Dinner and Gala at Slippery Rock University's Russell Wright Alumni House, the red carpet will literally be rolled out for them, and with good reason.

Taking its cue from the Oscars, the event, from 6:30-9 p.m., April 25, will honor those leaders in the nonprofit sector who are considered "stars when it comes to serving their communities."

Akice Del Vecchio


"Nonprofit is not a small field by any means ... however, a lot of the time, it is one that sits in the shadows," said Kelly Ruder, a dual communication and interdisciplinary studies major from Roseville, California. "People of course recognize the larger, national nonprofits like the American Red Cross and that's wonderful, but our event provides a chance to shine a light on those smaller, local agencies that have a large impact on our communities and that's important, both in receiving recognition and spreading awareness."

Now in its fifth year, the event celebrates the accomplishments of nonprofit organizations in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties.

Participating organizations are invited to nominate staff, board members, volunteers and other contributors for awards including: youth volunteer of the year, most outstanding board member and most impactful program of the year, to name a few. Winners are presented with trophies that resemble those handed out at the Oscars.

In addition to a formal dinner, the event features the aforementioned red carpet, photographers and names of attendees on stars, a la the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"This event is great service learning project for our students," said Alice Del Vecchio, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies. "Many nonprofits stage special events throughout a year, so by taking an active role in the planning and execution of something like this, it allows our students to learn the 'nitty gritty' of just what it takes to create a successful occasion that people will remember."

Students from Del Vecchio's nonprofit philanthropy class, the Student Nonprofit Alliance and students majoring or minoring in nonprofit management coordinate the event, working within a budget and via a variety of committees including: sales and sponsorship, design, event logistics and event management.

"Being able to have a hand in an event like this is really great experience," said Ruder. "Many students don't have the opportunity to have their hands in fundraising, sponsorships, event planning and public relations on this type of scale.

"To be able to gain that experience while also taking time out to recognize these organizations for their service to others, even if just for one night, is a 'feel good' moment for everyone involved."

Karen Brackett, vice president of preferred corporate services at NexTier Bank, will act as the evening's master of ceremonies. Brackett has been with NexTier for 27 years.

Nearly 100 nominees and their guests are expected to attend the gala, featuring agencies such as the Lighthouse Foundation in Butler; Once Upon a Hero in Cranberry Township; the Glade Run Foundation in Zelienople; and the Alliance for Nonprofit Resources in Butler.

All proceeds from the gala support scholarships for students in the nonprofit management program at SRU, which is the only undergraduate institution in Pennsylvania that offers such a program.

"The whole purpose of the event is about celebrating those that have been involved in the nonprofit sector for so long and don't receive the recognition that they should for making such huge contributions in our region," said Del Vecchio. "This is their time to shine and be treated to an evening that's all about them.

"And for our students, it's about having the opportunity to make connections and spend time with those people that they will one day work alongside or work for, in making our communities that much brighter for a number of our citizens. It really is a win-win for all involved."

"Not only do we get to take an evening to let the people who do so much for so many relax and be acknowledged," said Alyssa Faidley, a sophomore communication major from Aliquippa, "but to have the chance to speak to those that are actually working in the (nonprofit) sector and ask them about what they are doing, how they are doing it and what opportunities are out there for students after graduation is a huge benefit for all of us involved."

For additional information or to submit award nominations on or before April 9, contact Del Vecchio at

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 |