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Updated: January 8, 2024 / 2024 Best of Business Awards

Best of Business 2024: Best Events & Venues

Five women standing behind large letter cutouts that spell C-A-S-A Photo | Courtesy of CASA Project Worcester County (taken by Phil Smith) At the CASA Champions for Children event in September were (from left) Karlene Cudak, CASA Executive Director Julie Bowditch, Kris Wilhelmy Theodette Gasasira, and Gloriann Switzer.

Best Nonprofit Fundraiser Event: CASA Project Worcester County, Champions for Children event

The CASA Project’s Champions for Children gala in September was a smash hit. Although not a new event, the celebration had fits and starts over the past years, dealing with COVID-19 cancellations, changing venues, and a different vision. Yet, this year’s fundraiser for the foster children advocacy organization was a game-changer for the organization.

A chart with key information about CASA Project Worcester County
CASA Project Worcester County bio box

CASA advocates for the best interests of abused, neglected, and vulnerable children, amplifies their voices in court, and supports them on their paths toward a permanent home.

When Julie Bowditch started as executive director for the Worcester organization in 2022, she came equipped with fundraising acumen to help CASA reinvent the event.

The event came together beyond Bowditch’s wildest expectations.

“There was a lot of hard work and a lot of good fortune,” she said.

The event was hosted at Synergy Investment’s newly revamped Main Street building known as the Glass Tower in Worcester and was the first event of any kind in the space. In fact, Bowditch said, paint was still drying while the celebration was underway. Being the first event in that new space helped add to the anticipation. It gave the evening an exciting edge for guests, and a beautiful sunset visible from the panoramic vantage point did not hurt the feel of the night either.

The event raised $110,000, a landmark achievement for CASA and nonprofits of its size, which typically generates about $1.1 million in total annual revenue, according to its filings with the Internal Revenue Services.

The organization had never raised over six figures with an event before.

“It was huge,” said Bowditch.

To match the crystal-clear glass windows of the tower top floor, the event featured a raffle of a 2.4-carat diamond.

Charity events can start to seem repetitive, and Bowditch wanted to turn the CASA event into something exciting.

“They’re something that there's a lot of. We want this to be a true celebration that people look forward to,” she said.

With the success of 2023, it’s become a can’t-miss event, said Bowditch. Next year’s event is slotted for the same weekend in September.

Of the dozen vendors CASA hired for the event, 100% were based in Central Massachusetts. With the limited dollars the nonprofit has to invest in others during the course of the year, Bowdtich said she wanted them to go back to the local economy and help local business owners.

“The youth we serve and the region we serve is diverse. We want our event to represent that,” she said.

 - Story written by Isabel Tehan

*denotes repeat winner

Best Venue for an Employee Outing: Apex Entertainment*


A outside shot of an entertainment center in Marlborough
Photo | Courtesy of Apex Entertainment
The Apex Center in Marlborough

Top executives: COO Marcus Kemblowski and Director of Operations George Aronstein

Founded: 2017

Employees: 75

Apex offers 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, able to accommodate groups ranging from 10 to more than 200. For entertainment, the facility offers bowling, bumper cars, go-karts, laser tag, mini golf, and an arcade. The center strives to be the spot in the area for businesses to enjoy themselves.

Notable runners-up: Polar Park, Kimball Farm

Best Venue for a Corporate Event: Beechwood Hotel*


The outdoor patio of the Beechwood Hotel
Photo | Courtesy of Beechwood Hotel
Beechwood Hotel

Top executive: Sayed Saleh, asset manager and managing director

Founded: 1989

Employees: 100

The Beechwood Hotel offers more than 8,000 square feet of flexible event space, featuring a pre-function foyer, 13 function rooms, and a Grand Ballroom opening up to the brick Clocktower Terrace courtyard. Every event is customizable by the Beechwood’s team of experienced hospitality professionals and event planners, with award-winning catering and complimentary on-site parking.

Notable runners-up: Polar Park, Mechanics Hall

Best Hotel for Business Clients: Beechwood Hotel*


A fireplace and chair at the Beechwood Hotel
Photo | Courtesy of the Beechwood Hotel
Beechwood Hotel

Top executive: Sayed Saleh, asset manager and managing director

Founded: 1989

Employees: 100

The Beechwood Hotel is the only AAA Four Diamond boutique property in Central Massachusetts. A member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Connect Collection, the Beechwood Hotel has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the Best Hotels in Massachusetts and one of the Best Hotels in the U.S.

Notable runner-up: AC Hotel by Marriott Worcester

Best Venue for a Business Meeting: Beechwood Hotel*


Top executive: Sayed Saleh, asset manager and managing director

Founded: 1989

Employees: 100

The Beechwood Hotel has hosted business meetings across more than three decades. Meetings are tailor-made, featuring the latest audio-visual technology, high-speed wireless connectivity, unique meeting room designs, concierge service, chef-inspired cuisine, and an experienced executive planning team.

Notable runners-up: Venture X Marlborough, Southbridge Hotel & Conference Center

Best Young Professionals Network: YPWA (Young Professional Women's Association) of Worcester*


Five members of the YPWA board stand together at an event, while a sixth member has been edited into the photo.
Photo | Courtesy of the Young Professional Women's Association of Worcester
Members of YPWA's board (from left) Tiana Burnett, Kate Kusz, Cara Angeloni, Gillian Murphy, Katherine Aguilar, and (edited into the photo) Samantha Carr

Top executive: President Gillian Murphy

Founded: 2011

Employees: 0 (nonprofit with eight volunteer board members)

YPWA focuses on community, diversity, and being intentional with its member perks, event offerings, and who it collaborates with. The nonprofit prides itself with the diversity of its board and members, both professionally and personally. In 2023, YPWA secured a fiscal sponsor, the Worcester Caribbean American Carnival Association. This nonprofit status allows it to not only work with more sponsors and donors but create a scholarship fund, to make membership accessible to all.

Notable runners-up: Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce - HYPE9, Worcester Young Businessmen’s Association

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