Advocates for the community’s health By Abigail Thorpe
This year’s annual Heart Ball to support Bonner General Health was a true success, highlighting how the Sandpoint family comes together to support BGH and the continued health of its community. “The Heart Ball has been fabulous, not only because it’s a beautiful, fun event, but it raises money for things that the hospital couldn’t do or purchase without that support,” says Bonner General Health CEO Sheryl Rickard.
Valentines-themed decorations including large floral centerpieces, violet backlit curtains and magical twinkle lights transformed the Bonner County Fairgrounds, where the event took place on Saturday, February 15. “Georgia Simmons was the chair of this year's ball, and her background in design was clearly evident in the breathtaking decorations,” says Bonner General Health Foundation member Patty Hutchens.
The event included around 244 attendees, with 28 tables overall, and raised more than last year’s net of $132,000, setting a new record for the Heat Ball. “The true key to the success of the Heart Ball, not only this year but every year, is attributed to the amazing support we receive from the community,” says Hutchens. “There are people and businesses who donate time and money to make this a success. From the incredible auction items to the sponsorships and those who attend, we couldn't do what we do without the support of the people and businesses in Sandpoint.” All proceeds from this year go to help fund the new Ophthalmology clinic, which opened in early February at BGH.
The first Heart Ball started in 2008 under Howard Simmons, who was the Foundation Board president at the time and saw the need for an annual event to help benefit the local hospital. “Every year the community support and generosity continues to grow,” says Erin Binnall, Community Development manager at BGH. The ball moved to the Fairgrounds last year to help accommodate the growing size of the event, and even with limited marketing, the Heart Ball tables sell out in just a few weeks each year—testament to the community’s continued support for its local hospital.
“For me, one of the highlights of the evening was when our fellow board member and fundraising chair, Justin Dick, spoke and shared his story of how Bonner General Health has impacted his family's life,” says Hutchens. “From his father who has undergone several surgeries, to his own son who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a very young age, Justin shared how Bonner General Health has continuously provided compassionate care with medical professionals who went above and beyond.”
The Heart Ball is one of the most visual examples of how the Sandpoint community advocates for its local health-care provider, but this support is something that continues throughout the year and is vital to Bonner General’s continued ability to provide life-changing services.
“Bonner General Health has changed significantly since the Foundation was revived. The biggest advantage has been the advocacy,” says Rickard. “Having advocates in the community that have had lifesaving or life-changing experiences at BGH and are willing to share those great experiences with the community has been extremely helpful. These advocates (Foundation Board members and the Foundation Advisory Council) are raising awareness of all the great things that go on at BGH each and every day.”
The BGH Foundation has been vital to spreading the word about Bonner General, building awareness of the services the hospital offers, and raising money for the hospital’s capital needs to help fund services that would otherwise not be possible. The community support that the Heart Ball embodies is something that has grown year after year and continues to develop to help support the growing health needs of the Sandpoint community.
“We are committed to improving the health of our community members,” says Rickard. “That seems counterproductive for a hospital, since we are currently paid for the patients that come through our doors, but we recognize that in order to have a thriving, successful community, we need a healthy community, and we are committed to being a part of that.”