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A&F Challenge on Track to Raise Record Funds

Grant Walters Grant Walters A&F Challenge on Track to Raise Record FundsAll photos provided by Abercrombie & Fitch
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A&F Co. will host its 18th annual charity music festival and fundraiser at its New Albany corporate campus on Friday night

New Albany-headquartered Abercrombie & Fitch Co. kicks off its 18th annual A&F Challenge music festival and fundraiser on Friday night, during which it will welcome over 5,000 attendees to its corporate campus.

Tickets for this year’s event recently sold out, as expected. Those fortunate enough to have them in hand will have access to performances on two stages by The Mighty Troubadours, Tae & The Wave, A R I Z O N A, Bummers, Misterwives and Galantis. Festival-goers are also fueled by unlimited food and beverages provided by Bon Appétit Management Company, Rhinegeist, Middlewest Spirits, Newman’s Own, and Mikey’s Late Night Slice. 

The A&F Challenge prides itself on being a family-friendly event, offering arts and crafts, a rock climbing wall, a zip line, an archery range, and kid-approved food as part of its Camp Fitch activity area.

All net proceeds from this year’s Challenge benefit the SeriousFun Children’s Network, an organization founded by actor, producer, director, and philanthropist Paul Newman more than 30 years ago that provides free summer camps for children with serious illnesses at 30 different locations around the world.

Since 1988, SeriousFun has granted over one million children and their families life-changing camp experiences, enacting a network of over 275,000 volunteers who support them before, during, and after.

A&F Co. has committed $15 million over five years to SeriousFun’s programs and operations – a pledge that parallel’s the company’s values closely.

“[Our] mission is to positively impact the health and wellness of all the communities we touch around the world – it’s a direct impact on that,” A&F Co. Assistant Technical Designer Amy Tahmizian shares with me last week during a phone interview. “We’re not only partnered with SeriousFun as a whole, but every individual camp underneath it. We really play a big role with the camp counselor program and support them, and so it’s just a perfect mesh.”

“I think there is such an ingrained sense of community here at A&F Co.,” echoes Joe Zaccaria, who serves the company as a merchant. “You can feel that same energy when you hear people talk about and interact with SeriousFun Children’s Network. The A&F Challenge is about community, far past Columbus, and how we team up and build up those involved.”

Tahmizian and Zaccaria have been camp counselors with the program, working directly with children and their families during their on-site experience. It’s a volunteer opportunity that both say has enriched their personal and professional lives in a multitude of ways.

“This was actually my fourth summer session, and it’s absolutely amazing,” says Tahmizian. “I love it, and it’s why I’ve kept going back. And, that was just four times in the summer, but I’ve also gone to the family sessions in the fall and spring. I’ve gone to our local Ohio camp, Flying Horse Farms – that’s kind of my home away from home now. I got placed there my first year, and just absolutely loved it there.”

“Camp is such an honest place,” Zaccaria reflects. “We talk openly with campers about their illnesses and the challenges they face at home or school. But at camp, we let them know we are there to provide any and all accommodations. You end up seeing a lot of authentic behavior from the kiddos.

The first day you’ll see some kids be a little reserved, understandably, but by the end everyone is dancing and singing together. I think the seasonal staff does an excellent job of breaking down walls, both emotionally and socially, and allowing kids to be themselves – which they don’t always get to be at home. It’s humbling to be a part of.”

There’s a contagious excitement for their partnership with SeriousFun among the A&F Co. staff that goes well beyond the night of the festival.

“We have tons of different events throughout the summer to promote the cause and raise money and awareness, which is really fun,” Zaccaria explains. “For example, we’ve had a few happy hours, 5K runs, several raffles and a ‘Fundraising on the Lawn’ fair where different departments sell items or experiences to help fund-raise for their teams. We’re also having an A&F vs. Hollister soccer game after work today, and we have an associate teaching a Yoga class on campus tomorrow.

All these events get everyone together for a good time and a great cause, just like camp. It’s good people utilizing their talents to give back, which is pretty cool.”

Tahmizian affirms that more employees are also volunteering their time at the camps themselves.

“It’s really amazing. There are completely new faces each year,” she says. “I’ve been returning, but I’ve been watching all these new people applying and doing the camp counselor program themselves. And they’re just falling in love with it. That really gets the buzz going around the A&F campus, because everyone feels so closely associated with our partnership with SeriousFun. It’s not just, ‘okay, we’re fundraising and I’ve heard about this.’ Everyone has that personal experience and they know exactly what they’re giving back to.”

A&F Co. hopes to reach a goal of $4 million on the night of The Challenge alone. According to their website, they’ve already surpassed $3.9 million.

According to Tahmizian, a purchased ticket to the event pays off in ways that many festival-goers may not even realize.

“Everyone who comes to The Challenge and has a fun, awesome night with unlimited food and unlimited drinks at a big music festival. That $75 ticket sends [kids and their families] to camp, provides all the necessary medical needs, and funds all the people working there,” she says. “It goes so much further than just that one fun festival night.”

The 2019 A&F Challenge will be held Friday, September 6 from 5:00-11:00 p.m. at A&F Co.’s home office, 6301 Fitch Path in New Albany. Tickets for this year’s event are sold out, but those wishing to support SeriousFun’s Children’s Network’s programs and initiatives can visit their website to make donations and/or volunteer.

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