Gazette Sea Foam: Valentine Ball opens hearts

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comNovember 28, 2011 

Thanks to the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation and its 2012 Valentine Ball Committee for sharing the background on the ball and its pre-ball dinner parties.

Its leaders write:

Join the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation for "An Evening Aboard the Orient Express" for this year's Valentine Ball on Feb. 11.

The ball will benefit the hospital's emergency room expansion to continue to successfully serve the needs of our town. This vital renovation, which will more than double the size of the ER, will help the hospital meet the community's increasing demand for emergency medical services. Beaufort Memorial's emergency department visits currently total nearly 40,000 a year.

The inaugural Beaufort Memorial Hospital Valentine Ball was held in 1990. Since its inception, the ball has raised more than $3.5 million for numerous projects.

Becky Trask served on the first Committee for Development for the hospital under the director of development for the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation, Alice Moss (now the executive director).

Becky had the concept and was the driving force behind an idea that would set this event apart from traditional fundraisers -- and thus was born the Pre-Ball Dinner Party. The night of the ball, ticket holders are invited to attend a private dinner party in a local home prior to going to the ball.

The dinner parties are organized by the hospital foundation. They are unique in that guests may or may not know each other or their hosts. Dinner parties are held in the residences of generous volunteers. They are a great way to give back to the foundation and allow you to meet fellow ball attendees and get to know them. These parties are small and intimate in size, but large in their benefit to the hospital. Hosts serve dinner, whether homemade or catered, but are not responsible for dessert, which is served at the ball.

That first year, Becky and Neil Trask were supposed to host 12 people, but ended up with 32 at their home due to the large number of tickets sold.

Carter and Polly Swenson have hosted dinner parties for the Valentine Ball every year since 1992, with the exception of one. The Swensons feel their best way to support the hospital is by hosting a dinner party every year -- and that has led to some wonderful memories.

Polly has the dinner party hosting down to a science. That includes personally preparing all five courses, which she serves along with some humor. One year the Swensons decided to dress up -- Carter as Pierre and Polly as a French maid. Small touches such as their fun costumes and the homemade chocolate turtles they serve as the place cards are what make this event so much fun. They have met so many people and had a blast while also helping the hospital.

For 22 years, the Valentine Ball has brought our community together to celebrate and support the hospital foundation, which maintains and improves the excellent health care available in our community. The success of this event has been because of generous and adventurous people such as the Swensons and the Trasks.

If you are interested in hosting a Pre-Ball Dinner Party or to purchase tickets to the Valentine Ball, contact Brenda Molony at 843-522-5774.

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