Portsmouth Christian Academy Hosts Mission-Impossible Themed Annual Gala

Portsmouth Christian Academy (PCA) hosted its Annual Gala on Saturday, September 30th, taking inspiration from the iconic Mission Impossible franchise. The Gala, held in the school’s transformed gymnasium, witnessed an evening of sophistication as attendees donned tuxedos and formal dresses to celebrate and support PCA’s mission of providing an excellent Christian education.

The Mission Impossible-themed Gala, with its elaborate decor, transformed the school’s gymnasium into an elegant and intimate dinner venue, setting the stage for an extraordinary evening of celebrating and community engagement. The Mission Impossible theme was a fitting nod to all PCA donors, big and small, who have helped make the impossible possible over the school’s 43-year history.

This year’s Gala called attention to three key “Operations” for guests, referred to as “agents,” to get involved in:

  1. Operation Variable Tuition: This annual effort aims to help more families from diverse economic backgrounds access an excellent Christian education by supporting PCA’s Variable Tuition program. 
  2. Operation Hope Hill: A one-time strategic initiative to purchase 23 acres of land to expand PCA’s campus, providing a natural buffer and space for future projects, including athletic fields and a fine arts center and chapel. This expansion will help future generations of PCA students grow and thrive.
  3. Operation Eagles’ Nest: A $650,000 investment in the school’s playgrounds, providing the expanding preschool-through-Grade 5 student population with a new playground, equipped with various innovative features for play and exploration.

Attendees began the evening outdoors, enjoying food and fellowship before being welcomed into the gymnasium. To start the event, Director of Development, Elaina Russo welcomed the attendees to the Gala and thanked the Gala’s three sponsors, Turbocam International, Troiano Wealth Advisory Group, and Growing Wholly Herbalism and Tea.

Following Russo’s opening, Board of Directors Chair Jeff Clark opened the evening in prayer, followed by Head of School Mike Runey who took to the stage to discuss the purpose of the event and to make a major announcement to its’ attendees.

“We have many friends in the room tonight…our neighbors—Paul and Lorrie Gasses, parents of current students, Board members, alumni, parents of alumni, teachers, and school leaders of yesteryear. Many were here in the early years when we first moved to this location,” said Runey.

“You were pioneers, prayer warriors, and donors who helped build PCA’s reputation as a community of faithful excellence. You through your faithfulness– kept our dreams alive and brought us to this point today. I’m overjoyed to announce that this past Tuesday, PCA and the Gasses family completed the sale and transfer of the first half of Hope Hill, 3 months ahead of schedule, adding 12 acres of natural buffer, security, and future opportunities for our students—your children and grandchildren—for years to come!”

As part of Runey’s announcement, a video message from Headmaster Emeritus, Dennis Runey, shared the history of PCA’s search for land in the early years as Bethel Christian Academy made the transition to Portsmouth Christian Academy. Dennis shared the constant hope and prayer that one day, PCA would find a permanent home. Thanks to the warm welcome and generous relationship with the Gasses family, owners of the land PCA now calls its campus, PCA went from a nomad to a longstanding resident of Dover, New Hampshire.

Following dinner and a special performance by nationally recognized magician David Chandler, two PCA students shared heartfelt testimonies of how the school has positively impacted their lives. Tatiana Stockbower, a senior, expressed gratitude for PCA’s Variable Tuition program, which made it possible for her and her siblings to attend PCA, saying, “I am an honors student. I am a team captain for the Women’s Varsity Soccer team. I am a leader of the Missions Club. I am a teacher’s assistant for Spanish. I am a peer tutor. I have been involved with student government. I went on a missions trip. I played tennis and basketball, and I have led many fundraisers and events here. I could not have done all of these things without the support of my teachers, the unique student community, and the help of the people here today. Everyone here has helped equip me with the tools to reach my goals and strive for excellence, and for that I am truly grateful. Thank you for supporting kids like me through Variable Tuition and for helping to change the lives of those of us who couldn’t be here if it weren’t for people like you!”

T.J. King, a senior who transferred from another school last year, shared how PCA’s small-school feel allowed him to be himself and participate in athletics that he wouldn’t have had the chance to at his previous school. He emphasized the importance of building relationships and thanked the PCA community for its warm embrace.

“I attended a large, private school in the heart of Boston. Testosterone was literally bouncing off the walls. If you weren’t playing on the varsity basketball or soccer team, you were essentially a nobody,” said King. “My first day of soccer tryouts at PCA, I felt welcomed by every player on the team. I’m not valued for what I can do on the field–which isn’t that much honestly. I’m valued for who I am as a person and what my character says about me.”

Following the students’ remarks, Lower School Principal, Dr. Carrie Abood took to the stage to paint a vision for the attendees of what the new Eagles’ Nest Playgrounds could mean and look like for the school’s preschool, primary, and elementary-aged students. From an expanded footprint to naturalized landscaping to new equipment like a sound garden and embankment slides, Dr. Abood explained how a new playground can positively impact how students play and learn at PCA.

Following Dr. Abood’s remarks, Jeff Clark, and Mike Runey took to the stage to present the 2023 Impact Award. The PCA Impact Award is annually given to an adult member of the PCA community, who in the assessment of the school leadership, demonstrates exceptional character and action supportive of PCA’s mission and vision and in alignment with PCA’s core values.

“As an exceptional role model, this individual has carried him or herself with integrity and earned the respect of faculty, staff, and students,” said Clark. “The Impact Award recipient exhibits the qualities of a Christ-like life and demonstrates a desire to serve God in all that he or she does. This individual has consistently demonstrated humility, love, caring, compassion and a keen interest in the welfare of others. We are proud to announce the 2023 Impact Award winner, Dr. Connie Lawrence.

Concluding the evening, Head of School, Mike Runey, highlighted three strategic initiatives as part of PCA’s development plan:

  1. Responding to the demand for Christian education in the Seacoast region, ensuring that PCA continues to serve as a beacon of faith-based learning.
  2. Expanding the school’s “tent” for protection and provision for its students, ensuring that PCA remains a safe and nurturing environment.
  3. Deepening the impact of PCA’s programs for students, teachers, and families, fostering personal and spiritual growth.

The Portsmouth Christian Academy’s Annual Gala was a resounding success, bringing together the school community and its supporters in a night of glamour, purpose, and celebration. If you are interested in helping PCA make the impossible possible, visit our Support page and reach out to our Development Director, Elaina Russo, at erusso@pcaschool.org