No exact goal was set before the biggest fundraiser, the annual Have A Heart gala, for Illinois Valley chapter American Red Cross, said chapter director Sarah Stasik.
“We’re just trying to raise as much money as we can,” Stasik said as Red Cross supporters filed in Saturday evening for the banquet, auction and dance at Senica’s Oak Ridge Golf Club,La Salle.
Proceeds of the event will got to general chapter support for services such as blood drives, mobile meals, communications aid to military families and to help with response to disasters ranging from floods to fires. Since July 1, the Red Cross has spent more than $14,000 in the wake of disasters by assisting 30 adults and 30 children displaced from their homes inLa SalleCounty.
While mingling and dining on culinary creations by Joliet Junior College chef Tim Bucci and his trainees may have been the main attraction for the $50-per-plate event, a live auction of items and packages brought in thousands dollars in extra cash for the chapter. And the centerpiece of that auction — a pressure-packed appeal for direct donations — brought in much more than $10,000 in additional funds.
The appeal came as a sort of intermission during the post-dinner, pre-dessert and pre-dance auction.
Michelle Johnson delivered a short speech preceding AM-1220 WLPO/FM-99.3 WAJK’s John Spencer asked the banquet-goers to raise their bidding paddles and donate whatever they could in donations of $1,000, $750, $500, $100, $50 or $25. The first $5,000 of the funds raised during that appeal were matched by Miller Group Media/Miller Group Charitable Trust, which already had put up an additional $5,000 as presenting sponsor of the event.
Johnson said she quickly learned the importance of the Red Cross and blood donation four years ago when her then teen-age son, Joseph, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, had a near-fatal hemoglobin level and was lucky to be alive after multiple surgeries. Those surgeries required many blood transfusions; Johnson said in the course of six months, her son received 27 units of blood. She said that’s the equivalent of all the blood in two people.
“Those donors who gave to our son, we are truly thankful … for what they did,” Johnson said in conclusion. “Please continue to give toIllinoisValleychapter of American Red Cross.”
Before Saturday’s event even began, the chapter had received $20,000 in sponsorships, including Miller Group’s as well as $3,000 from Fairmount Minerals and $2,000 each fromIllinois Valley Community Hospital,Peruand St. Margaret’s Hospital,Spring Valley. More than 250 tickets sold for entry into the event, and many ticket-buyers gave more than $100 per couple at the time of purchase.
A 50-50 drawing involving the purchase of Mardi Gras-style beads, as well as two raffles raised additional funds.
Officials of Illinois Valley chapter American Red Cross were finishing calculating totals from Saturday’s Have A Heart Dance and Auction, and determined it brought in $60,710 gross.
Chapter executive director Sarah Stasik said she had not completed calculations on costs. Last year’s expenses at the annual event totaled $12,000, and she didn’t think expenses were much greater this year than the year before.
Based on that, the event likely raised $48,000-$49,000 this year. Considering this year’s event didn’t include a silent auction, that total compares favorably to the $51,000-$52,000 of the previous two banquets.
An appeal for direct donations from auction bidders, following a speech by Michelle Johnson of Tonica, brought in $14,550, including $5,000 from Miller Group Charitable Trust to match the first $5,000 from the bidders.
The auction items brought in $13,252, a 50-50 drawing took in $610, an iPad raffle fetched $1,894, chances at a TV resulted in $358 in donations, donations during the dance brought in more than $900, the $50-per-person tickets to the event garnered $8,750, and sponsors kicked in $20,000.