Behind the Scenes: Keyholder 2015


On the morning of May 6th, I received a Facebook alert on my iPhone:

Reminder: You’ve got 1 event coming up today.

My first thought was, “Duh.”

It was a day that had been marked on my calendar since the first time I walked out of The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio office in December with mittens, scarf and a new internship. But the snow had fallen in February and melted by March, and April’s shower’s yet again brought May’s flowers, and it was time for Keyholder 2015.

Keyholder was a beautiful day from the beginning, and just like most days that you never want to end, the day and all its moments flew by far too quickly.

By show time I had barely zipped up my new dress when it was suddenly time to take my position as a greeter at the main entrance. From my spot behind the glass doors of the Ohio Theatre I could see an eager and enthusiastic line forming outside.

Right when the doors opened, I forgot my lines for a brief moment, so overwhelmed by the energy of the 2,500+ guests. I quickly recovered from my out-of-body experience and received guests with a polite smile and points of navigation. I watched guests greet each other, finding their friends, and finding all the sweet treats at the public reception. Though all of our vendors provided complimentary and incredible goodies, I hoped our guests would walk away with more than a satisfied sweet tooth. I hoped (and knew) they would walk away with a stronger stride and a new sense of empowerment, like I had after my first Keyholder.

Just one year ago, I’d walked into Keyholder 2014 unsure of the event (and myself for that matter), but eager to learn more about The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. I’d had a chance meeting with our CEO and President, Nichole Dunn, and if her energy and charisma was any reflection of what the Keyholder event held in store, I knew I had to be there. And I am forever grateful that I attended. I walked into Keyholder disappointed in my current job situation, skeptical of the future, and feeling lost one year after graduating college. But I walked out of Keyholder with the determination to create my own destiny, to start laying the foundation for the life I’d always envisioned. As I stood in all of the splendor of Keyholder 2015, it was astonishing and surreal to think about the way that my experience with The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio had come full circle.

My daydream was interrupted by ‘the voice of goddess announcing “Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. The show starts in five minutes!” Just the week before, I’d been in the sound booth helping Sara M, our ‘VOG’ and Communications and Engagement Manager, record the announcements. The reception emptied, the theatre filled, the lights dimmed, and suddenly Keyholder had begun. Adrenaline and a fast-pace run of show kept me positive, but in the few moments that lingered, I was truly sad that Keyholder 2015 was coming to an end. The show had just begun, but for me, it was watching the last four months of my life culminate for a bittersweet ending.

As we closed the public reception, I quickly ate— no, devoured is the correct term—mini lavender vanilla bites of Kittie’s Cakes. The moment of savory and the sugar buzz were just what I needed to keep me going for the remainder of the evening. That and blister Band-Aids, as I peered down at my four inch heels with affectionate regret.

My next stop was backstage where the Key Bank private party would take place. Through the backstage double doors was a mint glow from the screen. As I stepped on stage, I couldn’t help but stop for a moment and marvel at the realization that on the other side of that screen were over 2,500 people all there to support the mission of The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. An audience full of individuals that had taken the time out of their day to hear our story, and the stories of the women and girls in our community.

Having attended rehearsals and organized scripts, I’d practically memorized each piece of the show. And with the introduction of Kelley Griesmer, I knew it was time. It was time for Melissa Etheridge to grace the Keyholder stage. After weeks and months of preparing quotes and pictures, I felt I practically knew Melissa, and I couldn’t wait to finally see and hear her.

My Keyholder Fairy Godmother and Project Manager, Sarah P, took my hand and we quickly tip-toed in a staccato style to a stage-right ornate out cove. I could see Melissa Etheridge behind the curtain, guitar in-hand, warming her fingers to the frets. With a strum and a step, Melissa’s on-stage entrance was greeted by an eager audience brought to applause. After singing “Come to My Window” with pitch and tone so perfect it seemed unreal, Melissa sat down with Kelly for the interview portion of the evening.

To be completely honest, the moment was so surreal, that I barely retained anything Melissa said that night. Though I don’t remember the words verbatim, I remember her energy, and I remember how her words made me feel as they poured so naturally out of her soul. Luckily, I’ve since been able to revisit her words while referencing our social media hashtags. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the night:

The positive vibes continued at the Key Bank private after party. As I spoke to guests in line to get their picture taken with Melissa, they raved of her authenticity, humility and humor. The honesty with which she shared her life-lessons and philosophies created a sense of trust between Melissa and the audience. That trust translated over to the after-party where I watched attendees foster friendships and meet new people whose relationships would all have The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio as the foundation.

Now, almost a month later, the energy of Keyholder is still present in the community and in the office. Among the team, there is a sense of accomplishment and throughout the community there is a new-found sense of empowerment. Keyholder 15 raised over $518,000 in all that will provide opportunities to our sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, and our community. At The Women’s Fund we are now starting the grant application process where we put the funds raised at Keyholder to use in the community- creating gender equality and social change.

Thank you to everyone who supports the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio and who was part of the Keyholder 15 journey.

We did it!


Written by Sarah Hider, Women’s Fund Intern

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