A philanthropic storm blew through Omaha Saturday and settled the CenturyLink Center on the “The Golden Road to Quivira.”
Donors rallied again behind the annual Ak-Sar-Ben coronation and scholarship ball, at an event inspired by L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz.”
Quivira, the mythical kingdom where Ak-Sar-Ben royalty rule, gained two new entrants, king William Cutler III and queen Carolyn German.
But the evening’s purpose remains the fundraising to help 51 high school seniors attend college, including many first-generation collegians.
More than 1,000 students from Nebraska and western Iowa apply for the need-based aid, and many work to overcome tremendous odds. For many of them, access to higher education is a yellow-bricked path out of poverty, one with pitfalls that new friends can help them avoid.
For the new royalty and others who attend, the Ak-Sar-Ben ball is a reminder of the need in our community to keep giving of time and selves.
That need to volunteer is nothing new for Cutler, 65, a partner with Heafey-Heafey-Hoffmann-Dworak & Cutler mortuaries in Omaha and Cutler-O’Neill-Meyer-Woodring funeral home in Council Bluffs. Their industry involves giving grieving families time, space and respect.
It’s no wonder that he and his wife, Susan, give to such worthy causes as the Nebraska Organ Recovery System, the Westside Foundation, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center Foundation and the Omaha Public Library, among others.
For German, 21, giving also comes naturally. Her parents, Cal and Karen German, gave time and money to help students in the Philippines.
She responded by raising money for the technological and personal needs of Catholic students in Africa. She visited Uganda and saw the gratitude.
She also got a firsthand look at the poverty and disease that shorten childhoods there. She is a sterling example of a young, engaged mind.
Luckily, the Ak-Sar-Ben court and its Knights don’t need a wizard’s help. They, their scholars, their donors and their guests set the examples that slay the wicked witch of complacency.