For those of us who run nonprofit organizations, there’s no escaping the annual fundraiser. Our budgets—and all the good work we do in our communities—depend on it. So we try to make those events as tantalizing as possible: Auctions! Food and Drink! Music! Special guests! Surprises!

We spend lots of time coming up with a compelling theme that can serve as the creative force behind the visuals, the copy and, in Fairyland’s case, the event props and costumes. I’m proud to say that after 18 years of Fairyland Galas, this year we hit on it: The. Best. Theme. Ever.

Let me tell you how it came to be.

Our staffers are constantly on the lookout for fairytale news: books, movies, or TV shows that will appear during the season of our big fundraiser. This year, the big event is the May 30 release of “Maleficent,” starring Angelina Jolie as one of the most villainous villains in the entire Disney canon: the Mistress of All Evil introduced in the 1959 animated version of “Sleeping Beauty.” The new live-action film will retell the classic story from the perspective of the antagonist. Jolie has said that the dark fairy is her favorite Disney character, and that got our attention.

Why not, weD03_0865 asked ourselves, a Gala theme that celebrates the great villains? After all, what would those classic tales be without the bad guys and gals?

We took our concept to FOF (Friend of Fairyland) Nancy Friedman, who names companies and products for a living and who generously shares her skills with our little nonprofit park. She shot over a few ideas, and one was the clear winner: “A Villain-thropic Evening.”

We practically rolled on the floor in glee as Nancy came up with more copy to play out the theme:

“After 18 years of sweet-themed gala events, Children’s Fairyland is going dark.

“This year we celebrate the witches, the ogres and all the other baddies without whom fairy tales would be …meh.”

“It’s a Villain-thropic evening. Your attendance? Mandatory.”

“The date: Thursday, June 5. The time: When dark shadows fall. The scene: Chill, ill, and dressed to kill.”

“Scary costumes. Shivery music. Spine-tingling performances. Food to die for.”

“Definitely not for children. And definitely not to be missed.”

In her 20-plus years in verbal branding, Nancy has named a condom, a venture-capital firm, several medical devices, an office chair, one of the first mobile payment systems in the United States, a photo-sharing app, and a pioneer in the business of divorce funding.

She says it’s always fun to work with Fairyland, but it was especially satisfying to take off in a new (for Fairyland) direction. “Heroes and heroines are admirable,” she says, “but villains usually have the most memorable lines—‘Off with their heads!’ ‘I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!’ ‘Why so serious?’” Nancy told us she’d love it if every Gala were a villain-thropic evening. ”I could riff on this theme for years,” she says. D707829

People have actually stopped me on the street to compliment us on the choice of theme and to share with me their excitement about planning a costume. This has never happened before.

They also ask who I’m planning to be that night. “Who?” I respond. “How about ‘what’?” My costumer/makeup artist daughter is in town, and anyone who is expecting me to dress as Mother Goose (as one of my predecessors did) will be, shall we say, disappointed.

Of course we want you to get involved, too. Our online auction, where you can support the great outreach work we do in the community by bidding on some amazing stuff, takes place May 16–30. Our website,, will have all the details.

Or join us at the park on June 5 and bring out your inner villain out to play. Because when we’re good, we’re very, very good. But when we’re bad, we’re awesome.


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