The popular “Great Gatsby”-themed fundraiser for at-risk youth is back after a forced hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19. This fall, the risk-free gambling event that has grown bigger every year will spread its wings at The Monarch. More casino tables, more fun and a surplus of 1920s glamour will be possible in the larger space, all sans any dull presentations.

Brenda Gerena, Youth Impact volunteer and founder/organizer of the annual benefit, says “boring speeches” are not allowed — only a good time.

The day of the open house for The Monarch, Gerena told her husband, event co-organizer Tony Stewart, this was the place for the next Casino Night. “We realized that with the growth the event has every year, we needed a larger space. The Monarch is absolutely beautiful and rich in history,” she said, adding that the venue is the “perfect vibe.”

The Roaring ’20s party will fittingly occur inside the grand Royal Room, up the ramp inside the historic ’20s-era parking garage.

Youth Impact needs a commercial kitchen, vital for the almost three-decades-old community nonprofit that feeds over 100 kids a day. Gerena and Stewart hope this year’s Casino Night will raise enough funds for the purchase.

The organization offers a safe place for at-risk youth to go after school with a long list of services and programs like tutoring, community service, sports, arts and crafts, and mentorship. Gerena said, “A commercial kitchen is very expensive and we’ve had to raise funds for a few years just to be able to raise sufficient money.” Last year’s cancellation of two out of three annual fundraisers set them back more.

Gerena and Stewart organized the first Casino Night in 2017, after learning that Youth Impact founder Robb Hall was terminally ill. They wanted to do something to help and came up with a casino night. “My previous employer had held a casino night for the company party and we noticed how much fun the event was,” Gerena said.

It was an instant hit with the community. The first Casino Night in 2017 raised over $25,000 for Youth Impact and attracts more event sponsors and attendees every year.

Head to toe in Gatsby-inspired cocktail attire, ticket holders are provided with $1,000 in tokens to play at any table of choice — blackjack, poker, roulette — for raffle tickets and a chance to win prizes. For those not into gambling there’s plenty of mingling, beverages and food served by the kids of Youth Impact.

“The best part of our event are the Youth Impact kids that are there to interact and serve food to our guests,” Gerena said. “Since the very beginning, the OWATC (Ogden-Weber Technical College) has graciously donated the food for this event and they are joining us again this year. The OWATC has been an amazing partner to Youth Impact in helping the kids succeed.”

There’s also a silent auction and a cash bar for folks with a taste for bubbly or gin fizz.

Casino Night is planned for Oct. 8, with Weber County having moved to moderate transmission level for the coronavirus, in hopes that by this time a normal and safe event can be held. Gerena says they will be following the updated guidelines and ensure they are in place for the evening.

Gerena suggests getting a ticket early (on sale now). Although The Monarch space is large enough for hundreds of people, they expect tickets for the highly anticipated event to sell out quickly. Sponsorships are available and include complimentary tickets.

“I think people love the fact that they can gamble and not lose any money” Gerena said. “This evening gives us a chance to dress up — or not — and enjoy an evening with friends or making new ones. It is just a fun event without the boring speeches.”

For tickets and more details, see the event page at facebook.com/events/732553890538492. For more about Youth Impact, visit youthimpactogden.org.

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