For 24 years, United Way of Santa Barbara County (USWBC)’s Red Feather Ball event has raised funds for United Way initiatives and programs.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way has transitioned its Red Feather Ball event to a virtual and unique United Together Red Feather Campaign to raise funds for thousands of students in Santa Barbara County.

Through September, UWSBC’s Red Feather Digital Campaign will raise funds through scholarships, sponsorships, and an online auction to provide thousands of students with access to high quality learning experiences through Fun in the Sun (FITS) and United for Literacy programs through 2021.

The programs were modified to virtual models due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it is anticipated that Fun in the Sun and United for Literacy will be able to return to in-person program delivery models sometime in 2021.

Fun in the Sun is a nationally recognized summer learning program that transforms academically and financially at-risk children — grade 3 through high school — from low-resource neighborhoods into successful, confident students.

Typically, FITS is offered as in-person program serving 350 students at six Santa Barbara County sites for six weeks each summer. Its comprehensive, integrated services keep students engaged during summer through daily educational and enrichment activities.

In summer 2020, United Way modified FITS to a virtual program model to continue supporting up to 350 students and families during the pandemic.

In this virtual setting, scholars engage in hands-on STEAM activities, have access to online literacy programs, participate in virtual field trips, and receive the individualized materials they need for virtual learning on a weekly basis.

In addition, United Way, the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, and No Kid Hungry partnered to ensure scholars received a free, nutritious lunch every day. Lunches were distributed on school sites for students and their families to pick up.

UWSBC and volunteers distributed food to all FITS scholars, their families and anyone in the community age 18 and younger.

Through the United for Literacy initiative, United Way and its strategic community partners deliver innovative and results-driven education programs to thousands of Santa Barbara County students who need extra help meeting and sustaining school readiness and reading benchmarks in grades K-12 every day.

As the original program has always had virtual components, since school closures began in spring 2020, the program has grown from serving 10,000 students per year to help more than 38,000 Santa Barbara County students.

United for Literacy’s other wraparound early learning partnerships, Kindergarten Success Institutes and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, are also providing educational interventional services, tools, and books to children between birth and age 5 to help them engaged and learning at home.

“As a result of this pandemic, we need to get creative in our fundraising efforts more than ever, including the Red Feather Campaign, to continue to support learning opportunities and activities for thousands of students across Santa Barbara County,” Said Steve Ortiz, president/CEO of United Way of Santa Barbara County.

To date, the campaign has secured Gold Level sponsors from City National Bank, Cottage Health ExxonMobil, and Kayne Anderson Rudnick; Silver Level sponsors from AGIA Affinity, Casa Dorinda, John and Susan Hanna, Montecito Bank & Trust, and Rosemary and Nicholas Mutton; and Bronze Level sponsorships from Aera Energy, Damitz Brooks Nightingale Turner & Morrisset, Paul and Bobbi Didier, Anne Towbes, Village Properties, and Jim and Marcia Wolfe.

In addition, UWBSC is hosting an online auction to support their Red Feather Campaign. 100% of the proceeds of this campaign will benefit United Way educational programs. The online auction ends at 5 p.m. Sept. 18.

To donate, view the auction, or learn more, visit