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Avera says goodbye to Splash, hello to Gatsby

The Avera Queen of Peace Foundation is moving away from wine tasting for fundraising this year and stepping back to the Roaring Twenties.

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Foundation Director Tracy Pardy said the Feb. 7 fundraiser at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell will be “Gala 2014: The Great Gatsby: Vintage Glamour.”

“Philanthropy has played a major role in the past in helping us to care for others and it will play an even greater role in the future,” she said.

Gala 2014 will replace the Splash of Spirits wine and food tastings that have been associated with past foundation fundraisers.

Last year’s enormously successful sixth annual Splash of Spirits featured personal testimonials from cancer survivors who had been aided by Avera health services. The event, which included a charity auction, netted $98,000 for Avera cancer care and cancer screenings — a result that more than doubled a previous high of $41,000 raised at Splash events.

All of which begs the question, why fix what isn’t broken?

Pardy said Johnson Brothers Liquor Co., which supplied wine and beer, has selected other venues to promote its products.

“They’ve taken their budget in a different direction,” Pardy said.

A Johnson Brothers representative declined an interview request.

The change required the event planning committee to open a new chapter.

“I’ve been wanting to create a charity gala for the hospital and the community,” Pardy said, “and the great thing is that a gala can appeal to everyone.”

A gala is typically defined as a lavish social event. Pardy said Gala 2014 won’t disappoint in that regard.

Those who attend, she promised, will be transported to the 1920s era depicted in the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel “The Great Gatsby.” The American lit classic depicts the extravagant lifestyles of the rich and connected on Long Island’s posh north shore during the Jazz Age.

Period costumes will be encouraged at Gala 2014, Pardy said, but not required. Einstein’s Costumes & Prop Rentals will help out by donating 10 percent of costume rentals back to the Avera Queen of Peace Foundation.

Ticket availability will be limited. The $65 per person ticket price will include a six-course meal that Pardy said “will be an experience.”

Twenty VIP tables seating eight apiece will be made available for the event, starting at $1,500 each. The special tickets will feature a VIP lounge, limited open bar and butler wait staff at each table, Pardy said.

“These tables are going fast and nearly half have been snapped up by corporate sponsors,” she said. “It’s a great way to reward employees and to give back to the community at the same time.”

Jeremy and John Hegg, the Hegg Brothers duo, from Sioux Falls, will supply music during a cocktail hour and the brothers’ five-piece band will play for dancing later in the evening.

The evening’s larger purpose will be to raise money for the foundation’s Caring for Life fund. Caring for Life will address the many needs of the hospital and will financially assist hospital services as varied as cancer and maternal care, emergency services and continuing patient care and medications.

The evening will have both silent and live auctions to raise cash for the foundation.

A website is still being developed to purchase tickets, supply event information and to preview donated items that will be up for auction. The website will be ready by mid- to late December, Pardy said.

Vacation getaways and a Tiffany necklace will be among the items up for auction.

The Presentation Sisters historically helped the communities they served without much regard for money, Pardy said. The religious order established numerous hospitals in South Dakota, including Mitchell’s St. Joseph Hospital, which later became Avera Queen of Peace.

“In 1923, St. Joseph hospital put together the first charity ball and dinner that raised $645 for a new X-ray machine that made a difference in the lives of many in the community,” Pardy said.

That, she added, is a tradition worth continuing.