The Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation (GJEF) said thanks a million during the Feb. 25 Celebration of Excellence at Villa Milano.

The Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation (GJEF) said thanks a million during the Feb. 25 Celebration of Excellence at Villa Milano.

GJEF president Dale Foor said the group has raised more than $1 million through annual fundraising and celebration events since the organization was founded nine years ago.

"We've reached the million-dollar plateau," Foor said.

The foundation celebrated the milestone during its eighth annual Celebration of Excellence, featuring the Hollywood theme, "Lights, Camera Auction."

The GJEF has funded more than 300 grants totaling more than $325,000 to support creative ideas submitted by staff and enhance the educational opportunities for students.

Foor said preliminary estimates show the Fund-a-Need generated more than $24,000 in pledges for iPads. The celebration's ticket sales and auctions generated more than $110,000.

"It's a ringing endorsement for our efforts to promote excellence in education," Foor said.

"This is always an exciting opportunity for the community to show support," said Lincoln health teacher Linda Shannon. "I've been the recipient of a grant."

Shannon recently received funding for first-aid certification materials for students who learn CPR.

Another recent grant from the foundation helped cover expenses for the annual LHS senior academic recognition breakfast. In addition, $2,500 was provided for desktop print, Web and video production software; $300 for special education curriculum support materials; $500 for a Veterans Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.; $1,000 to establish an organic garden in the high school's courtyard; and $2,500 to purchase research materials and Netbooks for the Speech & Debate Team.

The grants are supported through fundraisers including the celebration that boasted over 500 auction items at the sold-out event.

"We had tremendous generosity from the business community," Foor said. "There was such a broad base of generous donations that made for a wonderful selection of auction items to choose from."

A tropical vacation in Mexico for 12 people was the top selling live auction item.

Jane Tysinger, who owns a salon in New Albany, donates to the event each year.

"I have four kids - two who have graduated, one freshman and one at a middle school," she said. "I think this is a wonderful thing. Next year I'm going to get a (sponsor) table."

Toni Bell said she appreciates the variety of items guests can bid on.

"This is awesome," she said. "I'm a permanent sub at the high school. I also have two sons who graduated from the high school."

Kurt Schnieders attended the celebration because he's a friend of Foor's.

"I come out to support him," he said. "It's a good dinner and great time. And it's for a good cause."

Mike Fritz is an original coordinator of the celebration and he serves on the foundation's board of directors.

"I have two boys who graduated from the Gahanna schools," he said. "We thought this was a great way to pay back to the schools."

The foundation's 2012 Fund-a-Need, which is supported through pledges, will be used to purchase iPad 2 tablets for every school in the district.

"Our focus for Fund-a-Need is to support Superintendent Mark White's philosophy to make technology matter," Foor said. "We chose to do the iPads with the whole pitch that 'I matter.' Putting technology in the hands of kids is empowering."