‘Big Top’ raises big bucks

Duane Hicks

The Riverside Foundation for Health Care’s 17th-annual fundraiser dinner, once again organized by its special events committee, was a high-flying success—raking in big bucks for district health care.
The amount not only far exceeded the committee’s goal of $25,000 but outdid the fundraising totals of any of the dinners in its history, Foundation director Samantha Manty enthused Monday afternoon.
Saturday night’s event, held at the Cooper River Inn here, brought in more than $45,000, with a net profit of $36,900.
The Foundation has been fundraising for the purchase of a transportable Lifepak defibrillator and AED cardiac monitor for the ER at La Verendrye Hospital, and the amount raised Saturday will allow it to finalize the purchase.
The new unit is lightweight, portable, and more user-friendly than the current equipment, and will be even more efficient for staff to use.
Since they made more than they needed, the Foundation will look at buying another smaller piece of equipment, too.
“I would say the evening was extremely successful,” said Manty. “Everybody looked like they were having a great time.
“We really had that ‘Big Top’ feeling going on with all of our big prizes and our big activities going on, and I feel that it was extremely successful,” she added.
“It’s all because of the generosity of the people who attended our event, and all of the wonderful people in the community who donated and made it possible.”
Manty gave the lion’s share of credit to the special events committee, including Janice Cousineau, Karen Woods, Diane Gibson, Natalie DeGagne, Lynne Savage, Livia Lundon, Sandy McKinnon, Grace Cridland, Jan Abbott, Diana Kangas, Rochelle Duchnicki, Cindy Manty, and Samantha Pearson.
She noted the committee put in “extremely hard work” to bring it all together.
“And I’d say we pulled it off,” Manty remarked. “It was a really great evening had by everyone who went.”
Besides the committee, other volunteers lent their time to run games, take photos, and generally help make the evening as fun as it could be.
Dinner was served by the Muskie boys’ football team.
“We were so grateful they helped serve the dinner,” said Manty. “They did a great job.
“And because of them, we were able to save a lot of costs on our dinner, which means even more funds come back to us for the equipment we’re buying,” she noted.
“I was totally impressed at how creative and enthusiastic the Foundation’s special events committee was in transforming the open ballroom into the ‘Under The Big Top’ theme,” said Foundation vice-chair Bill Gushulak.
“The excitement of all those present, and the generosity of the many sponsors and supporters of health care ‘close to home,’ was encouraging,” he added.
“The carnival games and atmosphere created were greatly enjoyed and appreciated by all.
“The delicious menu that the Copper River Inn presented, and the courteous table service provided by the Muskie football players, capped the evening beautifully,” noted Gushulak.
“The addition of the special entertainment to close out the evening’s festivities certainly was enjoyed by all.”
Every detail of the fundraiser followed the circus/carnival theme.
The banquet hall was decorated to a tee by Diane Gibson of Gibson Design, and all the committee members and other volunteers were dressed in festive attire.
Event-goers were urged to play games set up in a mini-midway for a chance to win prizes. These included a ring toss, “Tic-Tac-Throw,” “kissing booth,” Plinko, rubber duck pond, string pull, and balloon pop.
They also could have their fortunes read by a mystic (played by Anne Zucchiatti) or have their photos taken with outlandish circus props.
The menu included mini-lobster corn dogs, braised pork shanks, sweet potato purée and grilled corn of the cob, and cinnamon sugar funnel cakes, as well as a couple of extra-special cocktails.
Dressed as a ringmaster, Melanie Williams of Party Rock DJ Services was emcee and provided music to keep the evening fun.
The night’s entertainment included juggler and fire-eater Isaac Girardin and contortionist Samantha Halas, both of whom delighted the crowd with their respective skills.
The event also featured a wide variety of penny table, silent auction, and live auction items.
Auctioneer Telford Advent, meanwhile, kept the bidding going fast and furious.
One highlight of the live auction was a bidding war between Mayor Roy Avis of West End Motors, and Nick Beyak of Sunset Country Ford for a set of four tickets to see a Minnesota Vikings’ game (donated by Duane and Grace Cridland) and a vase.
Beyak ultimately ended the war with a winning bid of $1,000.
Another highlight of the live auction was artwork of an elephant created by local artist Lindsay Joy Hamilton.
Throughout the evening leading up to the auction, Hamilton used a brush and India ink to create the piece, which ended up fetching $775. Marie Sanders took it home.
A “Heads or Tails” game saw a large group of participants whittled down over several rounds as players tried to guess whether a coin toss would turn up heads or tails.
The outcome came down to Dr. Lorena Jenks and Lorne Koski, who opted to split the $610 pot rather than risk another coin flip.
And the “Life is a Circus—You Deserve a Getaway” draw for a $1,500 trip voucher was won by Tina Roth.
As in past years, the Foundation fundraiser was supported by more than 20 “Platinum,” “Gold,” “Silver,” and “Bronze” event sponsors, not to mention the 100-plus more who provided auction items and prizes.