---- — In 1983, when local Catholic schools were on shaky financial ground the first Gladhander event gave them a boost and launched what has become an institution.
Over the past 30 years the annual fund raising extravaganza for Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools has raised an astounding $9 million and has been transformed into gala event that now features gourmet dining, entertainment, an upscale raffle and live and silent auctions.
This year's version, with an 80s Rewind theme, will be held Oct. 27 with a free public preview party the night before.
Gladhander has and continues to be a major support of teacher salaries and benefits and tuition scholarships within the nearly 1,000-student system. GTACS development director Wayne Mueller said a third of the system's students rely on assistance.
The Saturday festivities usually sell out with 600 attendees while the Friday preview party draws another 700.
More than 1,000 items have been gathered for the live and silent auctions. This year's big ticket raffle item is a choice between a 2013 BMW 328xi, a 2013 Cadillac SRX or $32,000 cash.
None of it could happen without people power. More than 450 volunteers work for months, and 200 work the main event on Saturday night.