On March 18, 2023, Menlo hosted its annual auction where members of the community gather for dinner, drinks and entertainment capped off with a live auction. Each year has a specific theme for attendees to dress according to. This year’s theme, “The Greatest Knight,” a play on words of the 2017 musical film, The Greatest Showman, encouraged participants to wear circus attire.
According to the 2023 Menlo School Auction FAQs, the mission of the auction is to join as the community to celebrate and further our school bonds while providing support for the Menlo School Financial Aid Program. Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Brooke Wilson oversees this process, which currently benefits roughly 1 of every 5 Menlo students. “All money for financial aid is raised through the auction and donations,” Wilson said.
Shortly after the event, Menlo’s auction team presented the results from the fundraiser in an email to Menlo parents and staff. According to the email, the auction raised approximately $1,150,000, 100% of which is designated for Menlo’s financial aid program.
More than 400 members of the Menlo community participated in the live auction to raise money for financial aid. Associate Director of Development Katrina Sitter appreciates the support and spirit of the attendees at the live auction. “The generosity of Menlo families is always heartwarming,” Sitter said.
Menlo’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Silver understands the auction’s important role in creating opportunities for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access a Menlo education. “The fact that we raise money for financial aid is critically important so that Menlo is more inclusive, which is better for everyone. All students who are admitted to Menlo should be able to attend regardless of the financial resources of their family,” Silver said. “Financial aid, supported by the auction, makes that happen.”
For parents, Menlo auctions are an integral part of building relationships in the community. Jun Zhao, father of sixth-grader Larry Zhao, appreciates how the auction provides opportunities for connecting with others. “The most important thing is bringing the community together,” he said. “You are able to meet a lot of people.”
A few years ago, this gathering was called the Benefit, mixing financial aid fundraising with a celebration of the graduating class. Menlo subsequently split the two objectives into separate events to put a stronger emphasis on raising money for financial aid.
Sitter felt that preparing for the auction was an invigorating experience. According to Sitter, the planning process starts in the fall when the auction team selects the theme and begins to search for volunteers to assist with event management. “Serving on the auction committee is a great way to meet parents from all of the different grade levels and get to know the Menlo community,” Sitter said.
According to Sitter, Menlo is extremely proud of its need-blind admissions policy. “It’s incredibly meaningful that the auction allows the school to offer opportunities to deserving students regardless of their ability to cover the cost, she said.