YESS Gala for Youth 2018

Collaboration, Connections & Outside-the-Box Thinking


Faced with a surge in youth looking for access and support to YESS services, dwindling annual donations in a tough economic climate, and declining gala ticket sales and sponsorship year over year, YESS debated long and hard about whether their gala event should even continue in 2018. They decided to give it one more shot and selected the Wonderland theme, because, as the Cheshire Cat says, “imagination is the only weapon against reality”.

Photo Credit: Moments in Digital Photography


invert720 was brought on to deliver a uniquely vibrant, entertaining and engaging program while staying within budget in a tightly saturated gala market.

Sponsorship was increased by creating a “behind the scenes” tour for event industry members as a value-add for in-kind donations. This in turn, provided a professional development opportunity for local event production professionals; offering a glimpse into the practicality, affordability, and approachability of innovative new live-event techniques.

Never-seen-before elements of surprise were created, reawakening guests’ imagination for the new Executive Director’s vision and mission. Edmonton Convention Centre’s Hall D was transformed into the dark, mysterious, and colourful woods of Wonderland. A 20’ canvas backdrop hand-painted with gigantic mushrooms created the illusion for guests that they had become tiny beings on a forest floor. To reinforce that feeling, strips of fabric décor (ATOMIC Udon) were stretched from ceiling to floor to bring the “vines of the forest” into the audience. Wide screens placed on either side of the stage projected gnarled tree branches; and lights were placed strategically to shine twisted spirals and branches onto the side walls, creating a complete illusion of being transported out of a conference hall and into a different reality.

Appearing on a tree branch projected on the two wide screens flanking either side of the stage, a fully re-animated “Cheshire Cat’ began speaking directly to the emcee. The cat addressed the guests and waxed poetic about the evening. A complete illusion of being transported out of a conference hall and into a different reality was created. Throughout the rest of the program, the whimsical cat interacted with the emcee during segment breaks, and helped the program flow with important announcements, information, and nonsensical whimsy.

The program ended with the live and silent auctions, where the cat warned guests that their time was expiring for bidding. With a final farewell, the cat and emcee departed to a round of applause and feeling of tremendous success for YESS.

The story of this event went on to win 2 awards and YESS Gala was saved, gaining a profile to continue as a successful annual gala!


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