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Published November 20, 2012, 11:30 PM

Robin Huebner Reports: Sanford gala a mix of glitz, touch of guilt

FARGO – Organizers of a black-tie fundraiser Saturday night for cancer patients and research say it raised $1.1 million – using a bit of peer pressure to raise $250,000 from the attendees alone the night of the event.

By: Robin Huebner, INFORUM

FARGO – Organizers of a black-tie fundraiser Saturday night for cancer patients and research say it raised $1.1 million – using a bit of peer pressure to raise $250,000 from the attendees alone the night of the event.

The inaugural Roger Maris Gala Black Tie Event for Cancer – a $100-per-person affair at the Fargodome called “Waves of Wonder” – drew more than 900 people.

“It was probably the biggest event I’ve ever been involved in,” said Greg Haney, who photographed the event along with his brother, Gabe Haney.

Jane Bartholomay, major gifts officer at Sanford Health Foundation, said while she doesn’t have exact figures yet, the $1.1 million – which includes the cost of the event – breaks down roughly as follows:

• Gala sponsors donated $250,000, either in the form of cash or in-kind donations. The Forum was among those sponsors. Ticket sales also helped cover the cost of the event.

• Gate City Bank donated a $500,000 endowment to support pediatric oncology programs at Roger Maris Cancer Center.

• Bartholomay says the remainder of the total figure, more than $250,000, was raised by donations from attendees that night.

The evening began with a video and live music segment focusing on three patients recently diagnosed with cancer.

Organizers then wasted no time in making their funding appeal.

Bartholomay explained how the pledge pitch went.

She says immediately after the video presentation, Sanford Health Foundation President Brian Mortenson came on stage to announce Gate City Bank’s $500,000 donation, challenging everyone in the audience to do their part.

“We had distributed pledge cards and pens to everyone at their tables,” she said. “When they filled out their card, we asked people to hold them up.”

Then volunteers went up to the donor and exchanged the pledge card for a Roger Maris Gala pin, which featured all the colors that signify different types of cancer.

It wasn’t hard to pick out donors in the crowd. The pins were adorned with bright blue flashing lights.

“It made the people who didn’t have a pin feel guilty,” Haney chuckled.

Haney, who took hundreds of photos of couples in front of a crimson-colored Rolls Royce brought in for the event, said Sanford would be mailing out the complimentary pictures soon.

The evening featured many unique touches, including a song, “Waves of Wonder,” composed for the event.

The opening invocation was sung by gospel singer Robert Robinson of Minneapolis, who brought his choir along to perform.

“Some people told me they’d attended many galas in the Twin Cities, and none of them compared to this one,” Bartholomay said.

The event that took more than four days to set up had to be torn down immediately to make way for the Mannheim Steamroller concert the next night. All the carpet, tables, chairs, sculptures, staging, electronics and video screens had to be hauled away.

One of the key planners, Sanford Health Foundation Development Officer Amy Hinkemeyer, says they finished up that huge task at 5 a.m. Sunday, putting an end to nine months of planning.

And now, the planning begins for next year’s gala.

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