The 2024 Opportunity Partners Gala Was a Success!


The Opportunity Partners Gala Recap

The annual OP gala was held on April 26, 2024, at the beautiful Radisson Blu Hotel located next to the Mall of America. Over 380 guests enjoyed an evening dedicated to our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities and this year’s theme of “Inspiring Independence”.

As guests arrived, they were greeted by volunteers made up of individuals we serve and shown the way to a unique, open atrium lined with tables displaying silent auction items to be bid on. With over 120 items, there was something for everyone!

Along with robust bidding on the silent auction items, guests had their last chance to buy raffle tickets to win a trip to Porto, Portugal, noshed on appetizers, and mingled with old friends while making new ones. It was a fantastic prequel to the evening ahead.

Opportunity Partners co-CEO’s, Bill Schultz and Lori Schluttenhofer, started the program off with a warm welcome and introduced returning emcee, Stacie Dzeidzic, an individual who has been served by OP for over 25 years. To say Stacie is a natural in front of a crowd is an understatement, she is an absolute pro!

A delicious dinner was served and Stacie introduced the attendees to her co-emcee for the evening, Lauren Leamanczky, KARE11 news anchor and journalist. Both Stacie and Lauren shared their passion and support for OP and highlighted the gala’s theme of “Inspiring Independence” by presenting the evening’s two “Mission Moments” which showcases individuals who have greatly benefitted from OP’s services.

Max Van Vlaenderen, Senior Manager of Day Services, shared the achievements of Patrick King, an individual served who benefits from OP’s Engage with My Community program. Patrick has been able to overcome some physical ailments due to this program along with the support of his peers and OP staff.

Another individual served, Luc Lamere, who has found personal success and rewarding confidence from working on the Bren production floor, had his story told by his mother, Angie Lamere, who graciously shared her gratitude for OP and the milestones her son has achieved.

Up next came the live auction with Glen Fladeboe, of Fladeboe Advancement, at the wheel steering our guests through six awesome experiences to go to the highest bidder. From a VIP suite at an upcoming Twins game, a trip for two to Cabo, Mexico (which turned into TWO trips being offered) to the always sought after gourmet dinner with OP’s own Chef Matt, the energy was blazing through the room as the guests challenged one another to see who would be the highest bidder!

After the excitement from the live auction was over, the program returned to its theme and the attendees watched an inspirational video about Ethan Bussiere, an individual who lives in one of OP’s Home base supported residences, and his story of independence, accomplishment in the workplace and confidence to achieve his goals. The video preceded the biggest gift giving window of the night, the fund an opportunity. As a non-profit, Opportunity Partners could not provide the excellent services in employment, residential and enrichment for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities without the generous support of our doors. The fund an opportunity is an additional way the organization is supported through donation gifts received at our annual gala and OP is grateful for the many donors who continue to support our mission!

The inspiring evening came to a close with the much-anticipated drawing of the winning raffle ticket; who was going to win the trip to Porto, Portugal? Everyone held their breath as Stacie announced that James Zrust was the winner. Congratulations to him and the three other people who will be joining him on this trip of a lifetime!

The gala was a huge success, raising over $482,000, well exceeding its goal for 2024! It was truly a magical evening filled with achievements, excitement and fellowship. We hope to see you all at next year’s gala!