On Thursday, October 29 at 7:00 p.m., the Thomas Edison State University Foundation will be hosting their 29th Annual Grande Ball in celebration of 2020: The Year of the Nurse. However, this year, as current health concerns rise due to the spread of COVID-19, the foundation has decided to make their yearly event virtual.

“We knew as we were planning the gala that we had to look into the possibility that we weren’t going to be able to gather in-person due to health and safety concerns,” said Jacklyn Joworisak, Donor Relations and Advancement Associate of TESU.

The Grande Ball, which was originally set to take place earlier this October, was pushed back as a result of extensive plan changes throughout the current pandemic. Joworisak said, “We went along this path of planning and then finally decided, like many things in 2020, we’re really going to have to change what we’re doing completely and go completely different and go virtual.”

TESU tried a variety of different ways to schedule this years Ball. According to Joworisak, the university explored setting the event completely outdoors. They also considered splitting the event into two sessions; one outside and one indoors. After multiple discussions regarding health, safety and current regulations, TESU finally decided on the virtual setting.

Every year, the TESU Grande Ball is considered to be the biggest event for the university in terms of fundraising and raising money for the college and its students. Considering this years dilemma, TESU noticed some unavoidable changes in donations.

“We have had some (sponsors) who have had to downgrade their support or aren’t able to support at all depending on what their situation is; and of course we understand,” said Joworisak. However, the university is thankful for the sponsors they have and for their ability to contribute what they can through the time period of a global pandemic.

To honor the sponsors of this years event, TESU is having to reimagine the way they thank their sponsors this year. “Instead of (the sponsors) having recognition on the table in front of someone at the event, it’s going to be scrolling throughout the event,” said Joworisak.

In particular, TESU has been especially grateful to Capital Health for sponsoring and partnering with the university and its medical students.

Misty Isak, Associate Vice President of Development at TESU said, “(Capital Health) has some of their nurses provide education for and mentor at the program. They also hire a number of our students who come through that program.”

This years Grande Ball honoree, Dr. Deborah Mican, happens to be the Vice President for patient care services and chief nursing officer at Capital Health. Through her support and time spent invested in the education of TESU nursing students, the university has been able to provide valuable insight to soon-to-be graduates.

Joworisak said, “She’s a great resource for us to have. (Mican is) someone who’s in the field right now and in a leadership role who can help the university guide our programs to what the industry needs right now.”

Similarly to the way the university has adapted their means of honoring sponsors, TESU has also reinvented the fun and entertaining aspects the nightly event typically brings to the attendees.

Isak said, “We’ve sort of over time became known as the main event where you can go and have a good time. We kept the speeches relatively short and the dancing was long.” She continued, “Trying to bring that piece into a virtual environment has been obviously a little different.”

It took some creative thinking, but TESU was able to find ways for the participants to unwind and enjoy the night.

In previous years, those attending the Grande Ball were able to enjoy the signature cocktails TESU’s cocktail sponsor would invent. For this years virtual event, the university’s foundation decided to release the cocktail recipes to registered attendees a couple days prior to the event.

Joworisak said, “We just wanted to create a sense of community for people if they wanted to partake in making one of those drinks and having it during the event.”

In addition to the cocktails, one of the schools simulation labs has a maternity suite, in which a mother gives birth to a child. To bring an added element of enjoyment to this years event, TESU is allowing registered participants to submit a name for the simulated child. The chosen name will be announced on the night of the event.

Despite the challenges the TESU Foundation has faced in virtualizing their annual gathering, the university has been putting forth their strongest efforts in providing an entertaining, informative and enjoyable night for students, sponsors and members of the community.

To participate in this years 29th Annual Grande Ball, visit: https://event.auctria.com/7ccd3e82-6327-47ce-8406-091147afcae0/