Concordance Academy Raises $1 Million at Fifth Annual Gala

Concordance Academy of Leadership, a non-profit that supports individuals as they re-enter society and the workforce after prison, raised $1 million through its 5th annual gala, “Big Top Bizarre,” held at The Ritz-Carlton St. Louis on Saturday, October 19.

Through generous event sponsors and nearly 500 engaged attendees, Concordance exceeded its fundraising goals and raised one-third more than the previous year’s gala. Guests perused enticing silent auction items and bid against each other for spectacular live auction packages, all of which sold out. Jugglers and side-show performers wowed partygoers just before the program began, and everyone departed with a cotton-candy treat.

I continue to be humbled and grateful for the overwhelming support from corporate sponsors and caring individuals who made this fundraising achievement possible,” said Danny Ludeman, president and CEO, Concordance Academy of Leadership. “It represents an expression of faith on the part of this community and their belief in the potential of the population of people we serve at the Academy.”

In addition to raising money for the organization, gala attendees were treated to live music from country singer-songwriter Filmore, and KC Flo, one of St. Louis’ top entertainment groups, played hits to close the night. Vic Faust of FOX-2/KTVI served as emcee, and Johnny Wallace kept bid paddles flying during Fund-a-Need and the live auction.

Concordance has served nearly 500 participants since 2016, offering pre- and post-release services over the course of 18 months. The organization utilizes a holistic, evidence-driven approach to re-entry—through 12 services delivered under one roof—to individuals returning to their communities and the workforce after prison. Since 2016, the Academy has proven to reduce reincarceration rates among the population it has served by more than one-third.

Formerly incarcerated individuals face enormous obstacles when they are released,” said Ludeman. “Most have no jobs, no housing, no support system to help them get back on their feet, and the downstream impacts affect every citizen in our city, our state, and our country. Our mission is to help heal individuals so that they can ultimately live joyful, abundant, purposeful lives after prison.”

We hope the stories of Academy participants will inspire others to action – so please consider sharing with your friends, family and professional networks.

Platinum level sponsors of the event included Centene Charitable Foundation, Edward Jones, Express Scripts, Paula and Rodger Riney, Steward Family Foundation and World Wide Technology, Stifel, and Wells Fargo Advisors.

The event was co-chaired by Melissa and Ken Cella; Mary and Bill Clarkson; Jane Callahan and Jim Bullard; Kristen and Rick Holton Jr.; Julie and Rusty Keeley; Sharon Buchanan-McClure and Rich McClure; Rachel and Jack Oliver; and Rachel and Jermal Seward.

View additional images from the event.


Concordance Academy is a St. Louis-based non-profit that offers the country’s first set of integrated, holistic, and evidence-driven services to individuals returning to society from prison. Led by President and CEO Danny Ludeman, the organization assists participants in three primary areas: behavioral health and wellness; education and employment; and community and life skills. The Academy starts working with individuals six months prior to release and continues assisting for up to a year after their return to the community. Concordance is committed to restoring individuals, rebuilding families, transforming communities, and advancing the field of re-entry services. For more information, visit

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