How to Put the "FUN" in Fundraising And Engage Your Team For A Great Cause

By Mary Rudd and Matt West

Mary Rudd is the Talent Acquisition, Development and Corporate Responsibility Coordinator and Matt West is the Director of Talent Acquisition, Development and Corporate Responsibility at Real Hospitality Group, a partner of ECPAT-USA and member of The Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code).

Real Hospitality Group embarked on a mission this summer to put the “FUN” in Fundraising as well as to engage with our associates and come together for a great cause.  To do this, we decided to hold Real Hospitality Group’s first ever Fete en Blanc Eastern shore and RHG’s second Cycle for Freedom with SWERVE Fitness.

Fete en Blanc 2019:

Modeled after Dîner en Blanc held in Paris, a Feté en Blanc is an event in which picnic-goers gather in a public space to set up a temporary, chic dining experience.  An invitation-only, popup feast to celebrate our associates, the community where we live and work, and the summer solstice. Party attendees must provide their own provisions, table set ups and decorations and are required to be dressed “to the nines” in all white.  To build excitement and pique interest, there is a mysterious twist in that the location is kept under wraps until 24 hours prior to the event.  

As a hotel management company, RHG is working relentlessly to raise awareness and to help eradicate child trafficking in the hospitality industry and the hotels we manage.  We aspired to create a unique and whimsical event that would get the word out and maximize the monies donated to our chosen cause – ECPAT USA. What a better way to symbolize the innocence of children than with an all-white, decadent popup picnic?   

ECPAT USA’s mission is to protect every child’s human right to grow up free from the threat of sexual exploitation and trafficking, placing a strong focus on the hospitality industry.  Working one-on-one with communities throughout the nation, the legislatures and corporations, ECPAT-USA is leading the charge to end human trafficking around the world.   

Attendees received an email on Friday, May 31, to reveal that the first Annual Real Hospitality Feté en Blanc (scheduled on June 1) was to be held at the Windmill Creek Winery in Berlin, MD.  Guests arrived in their finest white regalia and were greeted at registration with a fantastic gift bag full of “all white” goodies donated by our very generous vendors. Activities included entertainment throughout the night, lawn games, henna tattoos, silent auction, selfie station, food trucks and of course delicious food.  Our MC closed the evening with the award to the group with the most grand and opulent “all white” table set up.  

This was a great event which brought together the community and RHG Associates, helped raise awareness of the issue of Human Trafficking and Exploitation and got various vendors involved in this cause. Our first Feté was a huge success with 75 attendees.  We are looking to build on to next year’s event and are now scouting for the venue for the 2020 Feté.

RHG Cycle for Freedom 2019:


In New York, we hosted our second “RHG Cycle for Freedom” on June 29th 2019.  Our first Cycle for Freedom last year was a great success and very popular with our Associates.  Real Hospitality Group rents a studio with 48 bikes at SWERVE Flatiron District. Associates across our hotels can register a team of up to five people to take part.  The event is completely free for associates to register – all we ask is that they raise as much as possible using our Crowdrise fundraising page and ask friends/family/colleagues/vendors and communities to donate to the team.  The Cycle for Freedom is a fun filled 45-minute rhythm ride and the bikes are arranged into three teams. The team dynamic keeps you motivated, supported, and accountable, without ever singling you out. This was a great event to bring associates together from various hotels who may have never met but are on the same team – just like RHG working together towards a common goal.  Again, this event created a lot of awareness with our vendors making kind donations towards the cause. We can’t wait to do it again next year!

The goal of all of our fundraising activities aside from raising money for ECPAT-USA is to bring people together, have fun and raise awareness.  With these two events, we believed we were successful in achieving our mission.

To learn more about how to incorporate employee engagement and corporate responsibility activities to your company, check out our blog or email

ECPAT-USA Supporters: Marathoner Annie Ugurlayan Uses 26.2 Miles to Fight Sex Trafficking

This is part of a series of blog posts about individuals, families and corporations who use their time and talents to benefit of ECPAT-USA and to raise awareness about the issue of child sex trafficking. These people have taken it upon themselves to educate others in their own ways and have allowed us to grow our network more than we could on our own. We do not take credit for their actions, but we are endlessly thankful for their support.

Name: Annie Ugurlayan

Age: 41

Occupation: Lawyer

Annie Ugurlayan is a runner. After her first marathon, she was hooked, and when she and her friends wanted to run 26.2 miles abroad, they signed up for the Edinburgh marathon. Annie chose to also use the event to raise $1000 for ECPAT-USA.

To educate others about the issue, this September, Annie is hosting a screening in New York of the film SOLD, which tells the story of Lakshmi, a girl who journeys from a pastoral, rural village in Nepal to a gritty brothel in Kolkata, India. Read on to learn how you can attend the screening, what the issue of sex trafficking means to Annie and why running a marathon is mostly a mental game.


Why did you first start running marathons?

I’ve been a runner for a long time. Not a long distance runner, but short distances.  I would watch the New York City marathons on TV and thought it would be really cool to run a marathon one day. When I finally ran one, I got hooked. I just loved it: the feeling of being pushed to your limits, being able to do something that you never thought that you would, being able to push through it mentally was just amazing.


What was the most challenging part of the Edinburgh marathon?

It’s very windy in Edinburgh. You make a loop and once you go around the corner and go back, the wind that was behind you is now in front of you. The weather was very challenging: you were running against 40-mile an hour wind, there was horizontal rain for one mile. I was thinking, if I finish this, it will be a miracle.


How did you find out about the issue of sex trafficking?

I found out about it a couple of years ago. I’m on the board of the New York Women's Bar Association Foundation. We usually have two fundraisers a year. For one of the fundraising breakfasts, we invited Rachel Lloyd [founder of GEMS, a New York organization for girls and women who have experienced sex trafficking] and Pamela Chen, a judge now, who used to prosecute human trafficking cases. We found out how hard it is to prosecute these cases. A lot of the girls seem to have a connection with their trafficker.

It really spoke to me because it’s sexual slavery. It’s happening on our front door step. These are just kids.


Why is sex trafficking an important issue for you?

The notion of modern slavery, it just shocks the conscious. To think that there are kids who are literally taken off the street and sold into slavery, it’s just a horrifying thing. It destroys a generation of kids. It’s psychologically damaging and physically damaging, obviously. These kids should be learning. They should be in a loving environment. The notion that they would be exploited this way is just terrible.


Have you seen SOLD already?

I have. It’s excellent. When I found out that interested individuals can organize screenings, I wanted to do one. It’s set in southeast Asia, but the story of Lakshmi is the story of any girl who is the victim of sex trafficking.


Why should someone attend a screening of SOLD?

They should attend because I think it’s important to raise awareness about this epidemic that’s happening locally. I think a lot of people, like I did, have this idea that this is an international epidemic confined to Thailand and Southeast Asia. Not to say that it’s ok when it happens there, but this is a worldwide problem. This can happen in any community. I think the more you know, the more everybody can do something to help us. It’s really about the importance of education and awareness.


For tickets to Annie’s SOLD screening in Astoria, NY, click here.

To learn more about how you can host your own SOLD screening, click here.

To join our ECPAT Athletes team, click here.