Annual Behind the Mask fundraiser raises $128,000 for Twin Cedars

Published 6:59 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

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The 11th annual Behind the Mask was a huge success Saturday night raising $128,000 for Twin Cedars.

Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services is a non-profit that helps children in need. Twin Cedars provides programs for abused and neglected children, child advocacy, residential programs, foster care and much more.

The annual Mardi Gras-themed ball and fundraiser was held at Del’avant in downtown LaGrange.  Each year, Twin Cedars recruits community leaders the community to serve on the Royal Court, where they compete to receive the most votes in the form of donations to Twin Cedars where one dollar equals one vote. The highest fundraisers are then crowned King and Queen of the Mask during the annual ball.

This year for the first time, the top four finalists were announced just before the king and queen were crowned. The top four fundraisers were Kate Updegrove, Kaley Hebert, Ryan Gatens and Jason Karr

Ultimately, Ryan Gatens and Kaley Hebert were named King and Queen of Mask for 2024.

The remaining members of the royal court, referred to as dukes and duchesses, include Duchesses Lily Hamilton, Krystal Hart, Hilary Jones, Cheryl Magby, Cacee Pracht, and Angeline Rancifer, and Dukes Jack Morman, T.C. Nixon, Ben Turner, Solomon Whitfield and Gerald Wyatt.

Kim Rozycki, director of development and marketing for Twin Cedars, said all 15 candidates were incredibly motivated and had personal reasons for wanting to support Twin Cedars.

The sold-out event packed Del’Avant with more than 325 in attendance. For those who have never attended, the annual ball is like no other in LaGrange with guests decked out in formal attire ranging from sequined dresses, tuxes, masquerade attire and even a jester’s cap or two.

“The event raised $128,000 for Twin Cedars, but would not have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors,” Rozycki said.

Royalty Sponsors were The Hosey Agency of Country Financial, Signature Properties Group, UrgenCare Clinic and Wellstar Health System. Gold Sponsors include Clif Sandlin of Lawson, Beck and Sandlin, Community Bank and Trust, Hebert Realty, Cooley Construction, H&H Solutions and LaGrange Grocery, along with 46 additional sponsors.

“Twin Cedars is so grateful for the support of these great companies,” Rozycki said.

Behind the Mask is the main annual fundraiser benefiting all of the LaGrange programs of Twin Cedars. These programs include residential programs, prevention, advocacy, foster care, and other areas that provide services for youth and families in the Lagrange community. Programs include Bradfield Center and Connections, Troup County Children’s Advocacy Center, Safe Families for Children-West GA, Therapeutic Foster Care, Circle of Care, Partners in Prevention Program and Darkness 2 Light.

Hebert, known affectionately around town as the purple-haired realtor, said she was very thankful for being named Queen of the Mask after all the work she put in over the past few months.

“It’s very rewarding if I had to describe it in one word,” Hebert said.

Hebert said she was kind of naïve as to what Twin Cedars was before being asked to participate in the royal court.

“I was going to the royal court and at the time I had agreed, I didn’t know what I had agreed to, but once we had our first meeting, I learned I had just agreed to do something that could really make a difference in the community,” she said.

Hebert joked that being named queen doesn’t give her any powers beyond representing Twin Cedars and coming back next year.

“I think I’m just coming back next year and helping as I can. My son thinks that because I’m queen I get to make very important decisions. So his first order request was for me to make the weekend longer,” Hebert said.

Gatens, a UrgenCare and LiveWell Health nurse practitioner, said he was happy to help Twin Cedars and do something positive for the community.

While he didn’t share his secret for fundraising that earned him the title of King of the Mask, Gatens said it helped that Twin Cedars and helping children is a cause everyone can get behind.

“Organizations, such as Twin Cedars, represent the good in this world. It’s my duty to back positivity and progression especially when youth are involved,” Gatens said, noting in his line of work, positivity is needed but often difficult to find.