A huge, swanky social event and a giant fundraiser for an important cause, the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Valentine Ball is open to anyone who wants to dress up, have a lovely dinner, drinks and dancing, and contribute to the hospital's emergency center.
But many don't know that they can attend or help with the ball. So Ball co-chairs Lisa Mazzeo and Anne Helm decided cocktail parties should be hosted in October and November all around the Beaufort area to get new people involved with the ball and to introduce the hospital and the Hospital Foundation. The Hospital Foundation provided names of new people in town, and the chairs culled neighborhood directories looking for those who had moved to the area since February.
Mazzeo said they're amazed each year at how many people -- especially when they're new to the area -- don't understand that anyone can buy a ticket and attend. They don't know anything about the ball, she said, and believe they need to be invited.
The 22nd annual event will be held on Feb. 12 and will have the theme "Love In Any Language." Like last year, funds raised will be used for the expansion of the emergency center, which cared for 40,000 people last year, according to Helm.
Those attending the ball attend dinner parties at private homes before the event, then go to the Lyceum at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for live music, an open bar and desserts.
"It's all black tie, lots of ball gowns," Helm said, adding that the silent auction includes vacations, sporting events, progressive dinners and packages from local restaurants.
Annie Drew co-hosted a progressive dinner party before the ball last year with a neighbor, who had encouraged her to become involved in the community.
Drew moved to Beaufort in March 2007. She said she came to live here for "a host of personal reasons" but also because she fell in love with the town.
After a weekend visit in March 2005 with her sister, Drew went back to Augusta, Ga., as the owner of a home in The Point.
"I decided to take this leap of faith," she said, so she bought the house and rented it back to the owners for awhile. She now works part time at Rossignol's downtown and does volunteer work for an adult developmental disabilities ministry.
Drew said she chose Beaufort not only for the natural beauty, which is important to her, but also because it is "a very diverse community," particularly for a small Southern town. She loves the area's walkability, too, and the fact that "sometimes I don't have to move my car for days and days."
She offered a story that illustrated to her the importance of the hospital and the ball that raises funds to help it operate. For last year's pre-ball cocktail party, she ordered embroidered tea towels for favors. When she picked them up, the owner of the quilting shop surprised her by doing the work for no charge because, she said, she'd had "<2009>'the most wonderful experience at Beaufort Memorial Hospital's emergency room. They've been so kind to me. I've had to be there so many times.' ... That spoke voluo me about why I'm doing this," Drew said. "We're all going to need that hospital at some time or another."
She expects 50 people will attend this year's informational cocktail party to learn more about the Valentine Ball and the Hospital Foundation.
They will be encouraged to get involved as volunteers, or at least to attend the ball. She said her involvement with hospital fundraising so far has helped her "get to know lots and lots of really nice people I would not otherwise have known."
A GOOD CAUSE
Laura Beall and her husband, Andrew, will co-host a party with Cindy and Jefferson Davis in Oldfield. She became involved last year when Davis and she decorated for the ball.
The Bealls have lived in the area full time only since April, though she said they had been coming to the area to visit her husband's family for four years.
Beall lived in Charlotte for many years and moved to the area because she found Oldfield to be an ideal community for a second home. She said the proximity to Beaufort was another factor that drew her and her husband to the community.
She noted that in addition to being a fundraiser for a good cause, the Valentine Ball is also the "premier social event in the area." Like Drew, she expects 50 guests at the informational cocktail party, most of whom are Oldfield residents "who love Beaufort, too, and who have expressed an interest in helping with the ball." She added that a number of her neighbors already volunteer at the hospital.
The ball is "probably the biggest philanthropic event in Beaufort. More than 800 people are involved, and more than 600 of those buy tickets," Helm said.
Anyone can get involved with the 2011 event by buying a ticket, hosting a pre-ball dinner party, donating an auction item or sponsoring the event, Helm said.
For more information, go to www. valentineball.org.