Students get event planning experience for annual RMHF Gala


Courtesy of Laura DiMattia

Students in the Communication 466 Special Events Planning course stand with instructor Laura DiMattia (left) and five members of the Richard Murphy Hospice Board.

Every year, the Richard Murphy Hospice Foundation presents its annual gala to the residents of Hammond and surrounding cities. All proceeds from the gala aid the Hospice House in providing for its patients, who are not charged fees for hospice care.

After careful consideration and with the help of a class of students, the foundation intends to paint the town with a Pirates of the Caribbean theme this year on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.

In the last two years, the event has been through more than the board members expected. After canceling the 2020 gala due to the pandemic, they have also had to postpone this year’s 39th gala four times due to the untimely Hurricane Ida.

Jodee McWilliams Hoover, executive director of the Richard Murphy Hospice House, expressed how important it is for the gala to receive help from the class and the community in order to keep the foundation at its best. 

“The gala is very vital because we are a nonprofit, 501-C3. We don’t receive any money from the federal or state government or any kind of medical reimbursement. This is why when we didn’t have the event in 2020 it impacted us deeply,” she said.

The 2020 fire and ice themed gala was the first ever to be canceled and it left the organization and residents in shock, but Hoover confirmed that the board felt that it was what was best for the community. 

Liaison between the class and the foundation Laura DiMattia, an instructor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies, teaches the Communication 466 Special Events Planning course. This semester, she has guided her students in helping the foundation with digital media, content creation, silent auction, restaurants, project management and decorations for the gala since August.

She explained how her first two strategic plans for the event pre-hurricane were altered due to damage to restaurants that normally cater the gala.

DiMattia said, “We are now on our third strategic plan for this project and my students have adapted and rolled with the changes like professionals. I’m constantly amazed with their creativity, solutions-focused approach to problems and their commitment to making this the best gala ever.”

DiMattia also said that the students’ work for the gala is going toward their final grade in the class. 

Assignments include but are not limited to TikTok content creation, website design, blog creation, outreach and media promotion. All students must also earn their Google Analytics for Beginners and HubSpot Content Marketing certifications before attending the gala. All assignments and certifications will be included in students’ website portfolios as a final grade. 

The students in the class have adjusted to the changes that the gala has undertaken and are excited to see the outcome of their work.

Avery Meyers, a senior student in the class, has been a photographer, makeup artist and content creator for the social media advertisement aspect of the event.

“This class has taught me so many lessons. I love that we are able to truly work hands-on and get real-world experience. I have never had a class like this before, but getting out of my comfort zone has taught me that I actually enjoy event planning,” she said.  

The foundation encourages anyone who would like to sponsor, donate or volunteer for the event to visit their website at or call 985-340-0860.