When I became the Executive Director of KKOOM in October 2020, one of my big goals was to plan an in-person event in Atlanta. KKOOM is very unique in that we’ve been in existence since 2007, but for fifteen years, we never hosted an event in the United States, until 2023. That vision in 2020 finally became a reality with the fruition of the Dream Big Gala.
Most nonprofits host in-person events as a fundraiser to raise money for their specific cause. There are some organizations that can raise their whole fundraising goal from this one-time event. For KKOOM, our goal for the Dream Big Gala was different – we want to tell the greater Korean community in Atlanta about who we are and what we do. With a virtual board who live all across the United States and South Korea, it was a hard task to accomplish. But with the amazing support from the gala’s featured sponsor, Any1Health, Chae (KKOOM’s Executive Assistant), Table Hosts, and local volunteers from Emory and Georgia Tech, the gala was a dream come true for the organization.
Not only did we want to bring awareness of how we uplift the next generation in South Korea, we wanted the evening to be a celebration of Korean culture through a traditional Buchaechum fan performance by the Atlanta Korean Cultural Center and enjoying food from Seoul Food, now known as KPOP BBQ To-Go.
What made the night truly magical was the stories of impact – from donors, volunteers, Aimee (KKOOM’s co-founder), but also hearing from TaeHyeon and Nahyeon, two young men who grew up together at a KKOOM-supported children’s home. We wanted to give them the opportunity to feel empowered to tell their own story, which they did so beautifully, even with a lot of nerves. It was their first time not only sharing their story in a public setting, but it was also their first time doing so in English. NaHyeon told us after the event that he was so nervous, he doesn’t remember much of anything that happened before his speech. He said he could feel his heart pounding outside of his chest. How many of us can relate to NaHyeon’s nerves with public speaking?!
The goal of the Dream Big Gala was never about highlighting just one person, even though we had various speakers and dream big testimonials. It was about sharing the heart of soul of the lives we have impacted in South Korea. And I think we accomplished this goal through the sold-out event based on comments like “You put on such a memorable and beautiful gala. Several friends who are in Korea were commenting on how great it looked from the IG stories.” Or “Everything was just perfect last night. Thank you for inviting me to such an incredible evening.” The gala was featured by a local Atlanta Korean newspaper in the Newswave25 article here.
Thank you to every guest who attended and every sponsor who helped make this event possible for KKOOM. You can view photos from the event here, thanks to our photographer Zoë. We look forward to many more KKOOM events in the United States for years to come and hope to meet you in-person at the next one!
Grace resides in Georgia and first volunteered with KKOOM in 2015 when she was a Fulbright English Teacher in Sejong. After volunteering at the Samsungwon Christmas party, she became a Board member in 2016, the Chief Administrator in 2017, and the organization’s first Executive Director in 2020. While at Georgia State University, she obtained a Public Policy degree, with a concentration in Nonprofit Leadership. As the Executive Director, she oversees all social media marketing, manages donor relations, email communications, and supervises our KKOOM interns and executive assistant. You can read more about Grace here.