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Splash of Spirits refocuses on purpose, mission

From left to right, Annie Leonard, Heather Wieczorek, Dawn Williams, Kari Kirchmeyer, Abbie Titze, Karin Larson and Tracy Pardy pose for this photo Thursday in front of the Siouxland Photo Booth, which was donated for use during today's Splash of Spirits fundraiser. Leonard and Pardy are employed by Avera Queen of Peace Foundation, and the others are volunteer members of the Splash of Spirits planning committee. Pardy said not all committee members could be present. (Candy DenOuden/Republic)

Tracy Pardy doesn't mind asking people for money.

"It's easy for me to ask anyone for money when I know it's going to help save someone's life," she said.

Pardy is the Avera Queen of Peace Foundation's director and said she believes in the foundation's mission and results.

"That's what God says, 'Give of yourself to others,' " she said. "That's our mission within the foundation."

That's the mission Pardy wants people to focus on during this year's seventh annual Splash of Spirits fundraiser, which is tonight at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell.

"When I visited with the entire committee about Splash this year, I wanted to focus Splash on why we do what we do," she said. "This needs to be about our mission, raising as much money for the cancer care fund to help save as many lives as we can."

Since 2006, Pardy said the Splash of Spirits fundraiser has raised more than $155,000 -- all of which goes to Avera Queen of Peace Foundation's cancer care fund.

In the past, Pardy said she was not sure the foundation's mission, and impact, were clearly emphasized.

"This year, you'll see a focus on the foundation, in regard to what it is we do," she said. "We help make an impact in peoples' lives."

That's another reason why, Pardy said, this year's event will feature four special guests: Brian Anderberg, Jackie VonEye, Rob Marchand and Connie Puetz. All of them are local residents and cancer survivors who visited the cancer care center.

"I needed (the event) not to be just wine and beer and food-tasting," Pardy said. "Everything is centered around cancer survivors."

Pardy said the cancer care center has screened 1,000 people since 2003, 20 percent of whom tested positive for cancer. She said even those who haven't fought the disease, though, know someone who has.

"All of us have been touched by cancer in some way or another," she said.

Like Abbie Titze, one of the event's volunteer committee members. Her mother, Nancy Arneson, from Denver, died in 2010 from skin cancer.

"She was beautiful," Titze said.

Now, Arneson's photo is one of many gracing the tables as centerpieces for the event.

"It makes it all the more special," Titze said. "It's almost like they humanized it."

Each table, Pardy said, will feature a photo of someone who fought cancer. Some won their fight. Others, like Arneson, did not.

"Everyone wants to talk about the successes, but no one wants to talk about the losses," Titze said. "Both need to be addressed."

That's not to say the evening will take on a somber tone, however.

Pardy said this year's Splash will feature all the goodies people have come to expect, from a slew of auction items to a decadent selection of finger foods, like bacon-wrapped scallops.

"While you're there, enjoy the awesome wine, the awesome food, the awesome beer," she said.

Last year, Pardy had been on the job for just 16 days when the foundation held its Splash of Spirits fundraiser.

This year, she's had a little more time to get acquainted with the people and the party.

"Now I feel part of the family," she said. "It's going to be great fun for me."

But that's not the only reason Pardy is excited about the seventh annual event.

From the live auction to the raffle items to the very focus of the event, Pardy said this year's Splash of Spirits will have a whole new look.

"We've re-done the entire live auction itself," she said.

She said a professional fundraising auctioneer, Jonathan Larsen, of Larsen and Larsen Auction Co., will handle the live auction.

Among the 11 items to be auctioned are a destination package for four to Crazy Horse, reserved seats to all 2013 Corn Palace events and a trip for two to California wine country.

Details of the auction will be different, too, Pardy said. Bidders will have bid paddles, and instead of trying to physically showcase auction items to a crowded room, Pardy said there will be a Powerpoint showing each auction item.

"I don't want to take away anything from how it was in the past, because they did a really good job," she said. "It's just details that will be different.

"All the little details, if you change them to make it better, more sophisticated, that's what we're changing. It's going to pretty amazing."

Pardy said another unique item for this year's live auction is a hand-painted canvas by Lacey Lee. But it's not just another painting; Pardy said Lee will bring a blank canvas to the Splash event and paint the canvas for all to see.

And that's not including the approximately 40 silent auction items, which range from jewelry to spa dates to concert tickets.

"We've got more auction items than we've ever had before," she said.

Auction items aren't the only new bids on the block, though; Pardy said there will be two new raffles.

A $50 ticket will buy a 1 in 52 chance to win a ½-carat diamond pendant necklace. If that's too simple, though, the live auction will kick off with the Heads or Tails raffle.

For $10, Pardy said people can have a 1 in 200 chance to win a $500 gift card.

"Basically, we have these flashy buttons, you pay $10, and you get this flashing button," she said. "We'll only sell 200 of them."

The auctioneer, in this case Larsen, will start the raffle "drawing" by having everyone in the raffle stand. Then, Pardy said, Larsen will throw a quarter in the air, and participants will call it.

"They put their hands on their head, or their hands on their tails," she said.

The last man or woman standing wins the $500.

Pardy said the event typically averages close to $30,000 each year -- last year was $34,000 -- but she's hoping for $50,000 this year.

"Come with some deep pockets," she said.

Splash of Spirits opens its doors at 6:30 p.m., which is when Pardy said the silent auction bidding will begin. That will run through 7:55, and then the live auction and program will last from about 8 until 9:15.

Following the program, Pardy said there will be dancing from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m., with Go Figure, featuring local musician Chris Miller.

Total seating for the event is 342 people, and Pardy said there were only 20 tickets left as of 3:30 Thursday.

To buy tickets, which are $50, contact County Fair Food Stores at (605) 996-8393.