Twin Cedars annual Behind the Mask event raises over $130K

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Twin Cedars held its annual Behind the Mask ball on Saturday, raising $132,304 to help child victims in the LaGrange area.

The Mardi Gras-themed ball featured the 11-member royal court and the crowning of this year’s king and queen.

Michael Cooley and Mandy Hill were named the new king and queen for 2023. Cooley is a personal banker at Community Bank and Trust and Hill is the executive director of the Troup Family Connection Authority.

Community Bank and Trust (CB&T) served as presenting sponsor for the event with a $10,000 donation.

Cooley had long dreamt of taking home the Behind the Mask crown and did so this year becoming the first LGTBQ winner of the event, according to a press release from the bank.

“I want to thank everyone who came out to support this great cause. What an amazing night. It’s all about the kids! I am so thankful to be able to have made a difference in our community,” Cooley said.

The remainder of the royal court, Mickena Kendricks, Greta Cork, April Ross, Anna Campbell, Tara Ormsby, Irisha Goodman, Donte Lane, Tim Smith and Mikquez Berry, will serve as dukes and duchesses until next year’s event.

The ball serves as the primary fundraiser for Twin Cedars in LaGrange. This year’s event was a huge success said Sheri Cody, Twin Cedars executive director. Behind the Mask is the most popular, best attended and best supported of all of Twin Cedars’ fundraisers, said Cody.

Cody said the event surpassed its goal of raising $100,000 and even went beyond the stretch goal of $122,000.

“The money raised for this year’s Behind the Mask is the highest amount that event has ever brought in. We also had more people attending than we’ve ever had before,” Cody said. “There’s such a demand that we added 50 seats this year.”

Cody said 305 people attended this year, more than selling out the event.

“All the monies raised are used for programs in the LaGrange area. Twin Cedars has lots of programs in other communities as well, but for this event, the funds are used for the nine programs that are here,” she said.

Twin Cedars uses Behind the Mask funds to support counseling for child victims to help them heal and thrive.

Over the past year, Twin Cedars used Behind the Mask funding to help kids participate in extracurricular activities at school, provide counseling to children who had been sexually abused and provide summer school for youth who were behind.

Twin Cedars also provided parent educators to teen mothers to help keep them in school, teach them to parent and avoid repeat teen pregnancies. 

“We were able to keep 32 children safe, cared for and out of the child welfare system by providing them safe places to be while their parents dealt with various struggles. We were able to provide for the needs of 93 foster youth who live in one of our homes or on our campus here in LaGrange,” Cody said.

Each year members of the royal court “run” for king and queen by fundraising for Twin Cedars. One dollar equals one vote. The top vote-getters are named king and queen at the annual Behind the Mask ball.

Cody said royal court members fundraise in a variety of ways from reaching out for sponsorships to selling barbecue plates to hosting musical performances.

This year marks the 10th year Twin Cedars has hosted Behind the Mask but it’s only their ninth royal court. The first year was just a masquerade ball, Cody said.

“Next year will be an extravaganza because it’ll be the 10th year that we have had kings and queens,” Cody said.

Cody thanked the members of the royal court for their enthusiasm and support.

“We really have made new friends in them. They are great ambassadors for Twin Cedars’ mission in the community. We really enjoyed celebrating with all our great royal candidates with our Queen Mandy and King Michael this past Saturday. I think everybody had a great time,” Cody said.