Music parents to hold annual fundraiser Sept. 22

By Jane Charmelo
Lombardian-Villa Park Review Staff Reporter

Many non-profits find a way to raise money to “support” their causes, but one group has taken their fundraising in a different direction to do so.
The Glenbard East Music Association (GEMA) has been selling mattresses to help supplement the Lombard high school’s music programs and its students, and one music parent says it’s having a positive impact.
“A mattress fundraiser is unusual,” admitted Bob Biddle, but the event has been successful enough that this year will be the GEMA’s sixth event.
The school uses Custom Fundraising Solutions (CFS), based in Ohio. On its website, the company claims that selling mattresses is better than selling candy, wrapping paper or magazines because: “The average family in the U.S. has over four mattresses in their homes, each of which have a lifecycle of about 10 years. We know all the beds in a home don’t wear out at the same time, which creates a constant market for new mattresses.
“We also know that a survey of the population in the United States revealed a startling statistic: One in 10 people buy a new mattress every single year. This means that for a community of 30,000 people, 3,000 are in the market for a mattress right now!”
Biddle related that CFS has a representative in the Chicago area who had approached the high school about considering a mattress sale fundraiser.
He remembers thinking, “Why not? Let’s try it; there’s nothing to lose.”
And because “they [CPS] don’t like to do too many in a geographical area,” it made for a unique event.
At the same time, though, Biddle recalled thinking, with a chuckle, “You’ve got to be kidding me. What are we thinking?”
However, the fundraisers have been successful, in part because “their premise is, they take away the middle man,” and also bring their own staff, augmented by GEMA volunteers, he added.
Biddle offered figures showing that “as the years have gone on, we’ve done even better.”
The $19,000 yearly budget has allowed the GEMA to offer $4,800 annually in student lesson scholarships, $3,000 in college scholarships (one each for band, orchestra and choir), $1,500 in student awards and plaques, and also help with other expenses such as the school’s GRAMMY program, uniform upkeep and color guard, to name a few.
He said the GEMA is now the benefactor of a scholarship fund in memory of the late Ross Kellan, a longtime teacher and band director at Glenbard East.
Last year alone the GEMA gave back over $19,000 in scholarships, classroom materials and more, he noted.
Biddle said the GEMA had planned to fund new benches for the music hallway, but an Eagle Scout candidate beat them to it.
The GEMA was also able to contribute over $10,000 during the 2016-17 school year to overhaul the practice rooms that are used for private lessons: new digital pianos, seating, music stands lighting, cabinets and white boards, among other items, according to Biddle.
Overall, the GEMA has made over $35,000 to benefit the students and high school music programs—including $1,000 to each of the orchestra, band and choir teachers, up from $500 apiece, he pointed out.
Biddle said the GEMA also hosts other fundraisers each year, such as dining programs (Chipotle, Buona Beef, Portillo’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and more), and also raises funds through the sale of spirit wear, decals and yard signs.
This year’s mattress sale is being held Saturday, Sept. 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the high school cafeteria (enter at Door 20), which will be set up like a showroom. There will be 25 mattress floor models from Simmons Beautyrest, Southerland and Malouf-Wellsville, which come in all sizes.
Also available will be adjustable power bases, premium pillows, bed frames and mattress protectors, according to Biddle.
He indicated there were 149 GEMA members during 2017-18, and over 400 students in the high school music programs. He hopes to at least double the number of GEMA members for the 2018-19 school year.
To find out more about the sale or GEMA, visit or email


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