2021 Heart Ball exceeds all expectations
By Jillian Chandler
“The ultimate success goes to all those businesses and individuals who donated,” says Patty Hutchens, Bonner General Health Foundation secretary. “Our community is incredibly generous, and we could not have done this without them.”
February 6, 2021, marked the 13th annual Heart Ball—a fundraiser that has continually received the generous support of the community for the benefit of the community through its recipient, Bonner General Health.
2021 marked the 13th year of the event and Georgia Simmons’ second year as Heart Ball chair, though she had been involved in decorating and design for the event for several years. “[My role] consists of working closely with the Community Development manager and the Foundation Board to organize, coordinate and develop the event into a wonderful evening of charity, fun and dancing the night away for an amazing cause—‘Our Home Town Hospital,’” she says.
According to Georgia, this year presented new challenges: How would the foundation continue its fundraising work while faced with COVID and donor safety? As virtual events were continuing to become more mainstream, and showing that they could, in fact, be successful, there were still many questions and concerns. “But with the strength of our Board, our new President Justin Dick and the help from organizations such as PAFE (Panhandle Alliance for Education) and Kinderhaven, we moved forward,” says Georgia. “The real magic happens behind the scenes with technology and coordination. I am still in awe!”
The format of this year’s event was much different than years prior, yet it accomplished what it set out to do: raise funds for Sandpoint’s community hospital. And raise funds it did! This year’s monetary fundraising goal was set at $150,000, but by the end of that Saturday evening, they had raised $216,750, with proceeds from this year’s event going to Bonner General Health’s Emergency Department remodel and upgraded technology.
“This was our first time holding a virtual fundraiser, so we had no idea how much it would raise. …We were thrilled and grateful to raise as much as we did,” shares Patty. “We had the benefit of input from other nonprofits who had gone before us in the virtual fundraising world.”
As Justin recalls, “My only hope regarding this event was that we actually held an event virtually or in person. There was some discussion early on as to whether or not to even hold the event, and rightfully so. 2020 was abnormal, to say the least, and we kept our fundraising goals low and our hopes high. As soon as the group made a decision to move forward with the event, we were full steam ahead—and trains don’t make U-turns!”
Georgia knew that this new venture would require that the foundation bring fun, energy and surprises to the event—which, of course, they did. Justin admits that he was quite nervous at the start of the evening but could sense the abundance of enthusiasm and positivity from all those in attendance. Sixty-eight Zoom rooms, with anywhere from two to 10 people in each room, took part in this exciting virtual experience.
Patty was in charge of this year’s dessert auction. A total of 20 beautiful and delicious desserts, donated by various restaurants and individuals in the community, were auctioned off online prior to the event. Photos of the desserts were posted online for the auction, with the bidding ending the night before the Heart Ball—with many people competing for their favorite dessert.
“The restaurants and private dessert donors blew us away with their creativity,” says Justin. “What most folks don’t know was each dessert donor had to make their dessert twice; once for the picture to put on our auction platform and a second time to actually deliver to the winning bidders. We were concerned that we’d be asking too much from them, but our donors were so accommodating and rooting for the success of our dessert auction.”
In addition to the desserts, there were three live auction packages. As Justin notes, the highest and most noteworthy was the houseboat trip to Lake Havasu that was taken with a winning bid of $7,000. But this was not the highlight of the evening. According to Justin, “We had a few donors that donated $10,000 plus! I literally started crying and had to get off camera to make sure nobody saw me. The other really memorable part of the night was when one of our virtual attendees was randomly selected in our raffle to win our $2,000 local raffle basket at the end of the evening. She was unmuted and screamed with joy on cue as if we had practiced it before!”
Patty shares that another highlight of the event was listening to the video testimonials of people whose lives have been impacted by the care they received at Bonner General Health. “It is heartwarming to see what our hometown hospital has done in our small community.”
The foundation extends a heartfelt “Thank you” to the amazing Sandpoint community and the generosity and support of those who donated, sponsored, underwrote and virtually attended this year’s Heart Ball. And, of course, the Foundation Board and the BGH staff.
“I don’t think I can properly articulate the love that this community has,” Justin expresses. “From the private donors to the downtown restaurants, retailers and our larger businesses; where there is need, this community shows up! We do big things in this small town, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.”
Georgia adds to Justin’s sentiments, “Supporting each other is one of the important reasons we live here. I am so proud to live in a community that once again proves its generosity!”