Brooklyn Heights

Yuletide Ball celebrates 100 years of support for Brooklyn pre-K program

Annual ball has been fundraising since 1920

December 11, 2020 Editorial Staff
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Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, a 129-year-old leader in early childhood education, will hold the 100th anniversary of the Yuletide Ball, its annual fundraiser, on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. with a virtual broadcast, titled Yuletide 100 at Home.

Attendees at a past BKS Yuletide Ball.

Unique among Brooklyn fundraisers, the Yuletide Ball in its modern era convinced patrons to feed attendees in small dinner parties so that most of the usual charity ticket price could be used for programming for pre-K. Black tie patrons would converge, after dining, on a special party of music, dancing and dessert, in recent years held at the Heights Casino. But COVID put a damper on that model.

Guests mingled at a past Yuletide Ball.

Instead of an evening of large dinner parties, this year’s event will consist of a virtual program that will celebrate Yuletide’s rich history and the work of BKS, with portions of the broadcast filmed in the Governors’ Room at The Heights Casino.

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Martha Bakos Dietz is co-chairing the Ball.

The broadcast will include performances by Bemelmans Bar singer and pianist, Rich Siegel, and by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, as well as the debut of two short films created by BKS board member and BBC World News anchor, Laura Trevelyan.

Rachel Apthorpe, Paula Dunbar, Martha Bakos Dietz and Kathy Weigel are chairing the event. Yuletide has brought many a family together, including several current and past board members who met their spouses at the Yuletide Ball, including Chair of the Brooklyn Hospital Center Foundation, Dino Veronese and his late wife Jane, as well as historian and author Malcom Mackay’s mother and father.

Paula Dunbar is a co-chair of the event.

The Yuletide Ball has provided millions of dollars to BKS, originally the Brooklyn Free Kindergarten Society, with critical general operating support for 100 years.

In 2020, the Yuletide Ball is even more critical. COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact not only on the BKS members’ lives, but the lives of the BKS staff. A number of students lost loved ones, and a significant number of students’ families saw job losses and economic insecurity, and lack of nutrition because of the pandemic.

The support provided by the Yuletide Ball and private donors is critical, according to BKS. Private funds allowed BKS to respond to the food insecurity of some of our most vulnerable students, ensured that all students had the materials to continue learning, and allowed BKS to pivot to remote learning. When classrooms reopened, support from the Yuletide Ball helped purchase protective equipment and cleaning materials to ensure the health and safety of staff and students.

Rachel Apthorpe will be co-chairing the event.

“We are excited to be able to celebrate Yuletide with the community this year, and while this is not our usual Yuletide, it is an opportunity to come together, have a nice meal with our families, and virtually toast an organization that has done so much for some of Central Brooklyn’s youngest learners,” said Rachel Apthorpe.

“As a past Co-Chair of The Yuletide Ball, I was delighted to be asked to co-chair this year’s important centennial celebration of the Ball,” said Martha Bakos Dietz. “It has been an opportunity to rekindle support for BKS’ work among our friends, families, and neighbors.”

Kathy Weigel is a co-chair of the event.

“BKS, Yuletide and the Brooklyn children and families they serve have had my support for many years,” said Kathy Weigel. “The need for early childhood education, social services and stability the BKS provides has never been greater. The challenges the centers are facing and dealing with made it all the more important to me to co-chair and work to help the 100th Yuletide anniversary to be a financial success so as to help provide the BKS with the money it so desperately needs to do its important work.”

“Because Yuletide is virtual this year we have the opportunity to include family and friends located across the country who have supported Brooklyn Kindergarten Society and Yuletide over the decades,” said Paula Dunbar.

Guests danced at a past Yuletide Ball.

“I am so thankful for the generations of Brooklynites that have come together over the last 100 years to create the tradition that is the Yuletide Ball,” said Melisha Jackman, BKS executive director. “Their support for BKS and its mission ensures that our students have an equal first step in their education.”

Brooklyn Kindergarten Society expects several hundred revelers to tune into the broadcast on Saturday. Visit to participate in the virtual broadcast.

Brooklyn Kindergarten Society has remained a leader in the early childhood field since 1891. Through seven early education centers located in the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and Crown Heights, BKS provides a high-quality toddler and preschool educational program with three or more teachers in every classroom.

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