Adventure With Purpose: A Recap of Our 2020 Virtual Gala

On July 23, 2020, we hosted our first ever Virtual Fundraising Gala. While this was a departure from the in-person event we originally planned for April 4, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. You helped us not only reach our original goal of $425,000, but vastly surpass it! We're still tallying the final results, but we're elated to share that you helped us raise more than $457,000. Thank You!
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
July 24, 2020
Adventure With Purpose: A Recap of Our 2020 Virtual Gala

In previous years, it has been our tradition to gather our community each spring to celebrate our achievements and support future efforts to transform lives and protect wild places at our annual fundraising gala. This year, however, was a little different. 

With all the uncertainties surrounding COVID, we had to pivot our event from the spring to the summer. First, we still expected to be able to meet in person later in the summer, but as time proved that unlikely, we decided to take a gamble on the experiment of "virtual." And we couldn't be more thrilled with the results!

You helped us not only reach our original goal of $425,000, but vastly surpass it! We're still tallying the final results, but we're elated to share that you helped us raise more than $457,000.  Thank You!

If you happened to miss the live event, don't worry - you can still watch the whole program on YouTube. And here's a recap of the amazing hour we spent together - it flew by!


Did you know Mountaineers Books turned 60 this year? It all began back in 1960 with the release of our first title, Freedom of the Hills. At that time, our volunteers wanted to capture the collective skills and knowledge of Mountaineers courses to explore and climb safely. The overwhelming demand for what would become our flagship title blew our expectations away and officially launched Mountaineers Books.

Today, Mountaineers Books reaches millions of readers around the world. With over 650 titles in print, and thirty new books published every year, Mountaineers Books is the preeminent nonprofit publisher of mountaineering skills, histories and biographies, conservation titles, adventure narratives, natural history, and outdoor guidebooks in the world.

The night then proceeded with a little digital joke: our auctioneer Fred Northup, Jr. stood in front of a green screen that placed him in the great outdoors. It was a fun nod to our community, but Fred was quick to join our evening's emcee, Angela Poe Russell, in the main studio.Greenscreen.png

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Speaking of the venue, we recorded at Fremont Studios, where all our galas have happened in the past. Lucky for us, Fremont Studios originally started as a video production studio and then segued into event production, so they were well equipped to handle all of our virtual needs.


Fred and Angela filmed from the very spot where our dining tables (all 50 of them) were originally intended to be. Instead of ditching the dinner plan though, with the help of Kaspars Catering, we offered all our originally ticketed guests the options to either pick up a pre-packed meals or have them delivered to their homes. This also came with donated wine from Tinte Cellars, gin from Heritage Distilling Co., and Hydro Flask rocks glasses. It was a fun way to share a meal - together - from the safety of our homes.


We then got our second video if the night, a welcoming by Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl, followed by  a thank you to all of the event sponsors, including:

Signature Sponsor

REI Co-op

Major Sponsors

Hydro Flask and Tinte Cellars

Table Sponsors

Alta Group, Inc., Brown & Brown Insurance, Helly Hansen, Newton Kight LLP, Petzl, Ryan Swanson, Stoel Rives, Vertical World, and Waypoint Outdoor

Beverage Sponsors

Heritage Distilling Co. and Ghostfish Brewing Company


By this point our silent auction had closed, which included 42 packages. Being in the outdoor sector, we are spoiled by generous in-kind supporters use their platforms to do social and environmental good, all while making rad gear. Our auction donors range from individuals to our Board members to authors to local businesses to major outdoor brands. That’s why you see incredible things like the Seattle Children’s Museum paired with a Columbia Sportswear backpack and gift certificate or a gear package that combine brands like MSR, Garmin, GRAYL, and Petzl. To top it all off, we are able to bolster these packages with award-winning books from our own publishing division, Mountaineers Books. Because of all of this, our auctions have historically performed well above industry standards, and this year was no exception. We have you, the bidders, to thank for this.

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Fred and Angela then closed the nine live auction packages on the livestream. Bidding was highly competitive as these packages were claimed by the lucky winners:

  • Mount Everest Base Camp Trek With Madison Mountaineering
  • Mount Shuksan Watercolor Painting by Dee Molenaar
  • Joshua Tree Getaway
  • Fly Fishing in the Grand Tetons
  • Mount Everest Print: Photographed by Dianne Roberts and Signed by Tom Hornbein and Jim Whittaker
  • Ice Climbing With Steve Swenson in Canmore, AB, Canada
  • Methow Valley Outdoor Adventure
  • Peak Nutrition Optimal Training Package With Maria Hines and Mercedes Pollmeier
  • Climb Rainier with Mike Gauthier and Tom Vogl

In total, the July auction ended up raising $73,500 for The Mountaineers!



No gala is complete without a Raise the Paddle, and this year we asked our community to do it virtually. The results were astounding. The Raise the Paddle started with a video:

The Raise the Paddle ended up raising $50,000. Add that to the funds raised from the rest of the event, including sponsorships, event admissions, and April's Raise the Paddle, and we raised more than $457,000! A huge thank you to all of our supporters!  

We are awestruck, humbled, and deeply grateful for your time and philanthropy. It means so much to have your support, especially in light of the stress and circumstance surrounding us all. Thank you for standing with us in celebration of our people, places, publishing, and programs.


The Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement award is an annual honor given to a  member of The Mountaineers community for their lifetime of contributions to the outdoor community.   

This year we were proud to honor Governor Daniel J. Evans, perhaps best known as a former Washington Governor, though he is one of the most distinguished leaders in the history of the state. He became Governor in 1965 and served an unprecedented three consecutive terms. Evans then became the president of Evergreen State College from 1977-1983 and a member of the US Senate from 1983-1989, where he helped lead the passage of the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984, adding one million acres to Washington's wilderness.

Evans has since stayed actively involved in a large number of community and nonprofit organizations, such as formerly chairing the National Academy of Science’s Commission on Policy Options for Global Warming. In 1993, alongside legendary mountaineer Lou Whittaker and Melinda French Gates, he founded Washington’s National Park Fund, and he remains involved as an Honorary Board Member.


Dan's award was presented by Sally Jewell. There is perhaps no better person to talk about Dan's environmental achievements because Sally has also been serving the community in many similar ways. Jewell was U.S. Secretary of the Interior from 2013-2017. During her tenure, she demonstrated a commitment to connecting people to nature, particularly youth, with efforts to encourage tens of millions of young people to play, learn, serve, and work on public lands. She was previously President and CEO of REI, a $2.6 billion retailer dedicated to facilitating outdoor adventures. As an avid skier, kayaker, and hiker, Jewell has climbed Mount Rainier seven times and has also scaled Mount Vinson, the highest mountain in Antarctica. She first learned to climb as a member of The Mountaineers during her teen years. Jewell currently serves as the interim CEO of The Nature Conservancy.


Though we would have been thrilled to honor Dan with the award in person, the Lifetime Achievement video ended up being a very heartfelt tribute to all of Dan's incredible environmental accomplishments over the course of his political career. 

Keynote VIDEO

Switching to the virtual format opened up numerous possibilities on how we could approach the keynote presentation. Our original presenter was supposed to be Sir Chris Bonington (who will now be joining us for a future gala), but with the limitations of COVID, we pivoted to a new idea: 16 outdoor celebrities and 16 questions from our community.

The project required much email coordination and video editing, but the result was a very fun surprise for our community.

The video was then followed up by a surprise announcement that Conrad Anker will be joining The Mountaineers in September for a very special presentation - details still to come!

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A Toast to YOU

We have so many people to thank: our sponsors, table captains and hosts, auction donors, staff, board members, everyone who participated in the videos, plus so many others. However, our biggest thanks goes out to you, our viewers, bidders, and virtual paddle raisers whose spirit of generosity lifted up our entire community.

We are truly grateful for the generosity of this community - your time, your knowledge, your passion, and your donations. Each of you plays an important role in making the mission of The Mountaineers a reality and we thank you for supporting our work. And thank you, once again, for making this a gala to remember! (Check out the virtual photo booth gallery from everyone celebrating at home!)

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