Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

HIPOW (Happiness Is Paying Our Way), an annual fundraiser to support Catholic Schools of Fairbanks, celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend with lots of glitz, glamour and a strong dose of community.

Hundreds of supporters, including alumni, local residents, others who now live outside Alaska and business people all came together for a common cause — supporting the 400 students who attend Immaculate Conception School and Monroe High School.

The room was alive with energy as old friends reconnected, some returning to Fairbanks after many years, just for this special anniversary occasion. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Class of 1975, was there, reuniting with former classmates.


Historical photos of past HIPOW events greeted guests at the entryway. Kris Capps/News-Miner

“The fact that there were so many past chairs (organizers) in the room was really impressive,” said Amanda Angaiak, the new director of Catholic Schools/president of Monroe Foundation. “It was a way to honor the legacy they have left. These are not people who chair and then go away. They keep giving to the school of their time and talent.”

“Their grandchildren are part of the schools,” she said. “It’s a community.”

This school community looks out for one another, Angaiak said, adding, “This is Alaska, in a nutshell.”

As organizers floated through the jam-packed event Saturday night, making sure everything was running properly, someone said, “You think it’s rough doing the 50th? Imagine doing the first one.”

That first HIPOW raised $72,000 and began a tradition that remains a success today. The chairs of that first event were Mike and Matilda Stepovich. This year, their daughter Andrea and her husband, Roger McGill, helped lead the event, along with the Sundborg sisters — Kim Brandenburg, Cathy Sundborg and Jacyn DeBaun. Their parents were co-chairs of HIPOW in 1980.


Co-chairs Kim Brandenburg and Cathy Sundborg helped organize HIPOW 2019, along with fellow co-chairs Jacyn DeBaun and Roger and Andrea McGill. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Generosity of donors remains unwavering.

The outcry auction Saturday night always opens with a dessert. This year, the first item was four dozen chocolate-covered strawberries, created by Josie Wooding. The winning bid was $1,100.

Some items offered for bid were fun, others practical and even extravagant. Cass Ferree, of the Monroe Foundation, said she notices a trend in donors providing experiences for HIPOW bidders. A children’s birthday party with Fairbanks firefighters at Fire Department 1 was offered. There was also a trip in the luxurious Alaska Railroad Denali Car to Seward for up to 16 guests.

But some traditions remain. Every year since the first HIPOW, Gene’s Chrysler has donated a brand-new vehicle to the auction.

This year, it was a four-wheel drive 2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn Crew Cab.

This year, when all the bidding was done, generous donors provided $730,000, a healthy start to the Monroe Foundation’s $1.2 million goal.


Hundreds of supporters, alumni, friends and family attended HIPOW's Saturday night dinner and auction to show their support. Kris Capps/News-Miner

The 50th is already in the history books, and organizers are brainstorming themes for next year. Until then, that special evening of “Solid Gold” will shimmer in everyone’s memories.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMKris.