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Photo provided by Becky Fulks.

Athens Sunrise Rotary fundraises with silly night of mystery

Silliness and pajamas are what’s in store for Athens Sunrise Rotary’s “The Pajama Party Murders.”

Guests will have to survive a night in the Cosmo Household after the death of Bartholomew T. Cosmo, creator of the world-famous “Cosmo Inflatable Neck Pillow.” Cosmo’s attorney is tasked with collecting the five heirs and involving the audience to solve the murder mystery.

“Each of the characters is played by members of our club,” Jenny Stotts, chair of the murder mystery event, said in an email. “It’s always fun to see familiar local leaders up on stage for a great cause.”

Directed by Patty DeBruin, the performance will take place on Friday at Stuart’s Opera House, 52 Public Square in Nelsonville. Tickets are on sale for $55 for main floor seats and $45 for balcony seats. Stuart’s no longer requires proof of vaccination, and masks are optional. Guests are encouraged, but not required, to participate in the theme. 

“Every year, we pick a theme where guests are encouraged to dress up and participate with a theme,” Kristi Kinnard, club president of Athens Sunrise Rotary, said. “And we've had some hilarious themes in the past, but this one was the pajama party.”

The murder mystery event is a key fundraising event for the Athens Sunrise Rotary, directly benefiting its monthly event, Drafts for a Difference. Each month, the Rotary teams up with a different local charity and runs a donation matching program. This year, they’ve worked with Devil’s Kettle Brewing, which donates one dollar for every pint sold. Athens Sunrise Rotary then matches that. 

“Our fundraiser had been successful; we ended up just giving away $500 to each organization plus whatever the happy hour site raised,” Kinnard said. “So, for example, this year we've been able to give between $550 to like $650 to every single organization each month.”

Kinnard said this event is what funds all of the organizations and partnerships that they work with throughout the year. Some recent partners of the Rotary include Community Food Initiatives, Ohio Valley Summer Theater, Live Healthy Appalachia, Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, Athens HOPE, Athens CASA and the Athens ART Guild. 

“As an organization, we support the organizations that are already doing great work and that's where the fundraising comes in – the financial support,” Kinnard said. “It's up to us to funnel that money and give visibility to those organizations who are already doing great things in the community.”

The Rotary is a social services club that anyone in the community can be a part of. Starting in April, the club will meet every Thursday at 7 a.m. in the backroom of Donkey Coffee, 17 West Washington St.  

“We enjoy bringing our community together through service projects and giving back,” Becky Fulks, communications chair for the murder mystery event, said. “It's just a great opportunity to feel connected at a local and global level.”

After last year’s performance that occurred via online streaming, the rotary members are excited to be back interacting with the audience. Typically, the experience takes place in the lobby of Stuart’s Opera House. 

“This will be the first time that we are hosting our murder mystery on the historic Stuart’s Opera House stage,” Fulks said. “It will not be in their normal social setting, we're actually going to be on the main stage, which will be really, really cool.”

For guests planning to attend, an interactive cocktail hour will begin the event with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. 

“It's not supposed to be another stuffy, dress up, go to a fundraising event,” Kinnard said. “It's supposed to be a place to laugh and have fun and be casual.”

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