Members of the A Night for Hope planning committee — clockwise, from bottom left, Jade Kavanaugh, Trena Champion, Catina Hayes, Nancy Mitchell, Debbie Reynolds, Lydia Olds, Julie Sellers, the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia’s Melissa Goodin, Sharon Gross and Caitlin Bailey — discuss plans for the formal fundraiser. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — When the 10- to 15-member committee of committed women who were responsible for planning the yearly American Cancer Society fundraiser they dubbed the Hope Ball learned that the organization would no longer sponsor the event, they were left a little stunned and facing a quandary.
“Just about everyone who is a part of this committee has had cancer themselves or has loved ones who had cancer,” committee member Julie Sellers said. “There was a passion for what we were doing, and no one really wanted to give that up. We felt like we were making a difference.”
“Plus, we’re good at what we do,” added Catina Hayes.
Driving the point home, Sharon Gross pointed out, “This is a little like your baby for all of us.”
Understanding the deep feeling for the seven-year-old fundraiser among committee members and area residents impacted directly by the Hope Ball, committee member Nancy Mitchell decided to take the concept to another agency active in the fight against cancer.
Mitchell, who teaches nursing at Darton State College, had lost her son to cancer shortly after he was the honoree of the gala.
“I’ll admit, when I first heard (that the American Cancer Society would no longer sponsor the fundraiser), I said, ‘What?’” Mitchell said. “There was so much energy with the committee that planned the event, and I don’t believe there was a time we didn’t raise $50,000 or more.
“I’d just made contact with the Cancer Coalition (of South Georgia), so I asked the committee if they were interested in carrying on with another organization. When everyone found out the Cancer Coalition fights cancer strictly on the local level, everyone was on board.”
Contacted by committee members in September, Cancer Coalition of South Georgia CEO Diane Fletcher quickly said yes to hosting the fundraiser, and the committee convened to hastily prepare for the gala event. Redubbed “A Night for Hope,” the evening of formal dining and dancing has been scheduled for Feb. 1 at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn.
“When Nancy came to us with the idea of hosting the fundraiser, the Cancer Coalition immediately embraced it,” Fletcher said. “We saw this is a great opportunity for individuals and businesses in the community to attend a lovely formal event knowing they were supporting the local fight against cancer. Because all of our efforts support the health of the local community, their investment comes back to benefit them.”
A Night for Hope will feature cocktails at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner and dancing to musical entertainment supplied by Dr. Jose Tongol’s band, the JT Yoyos, and the Hollywood Band. Wine will be on all tables, and a cash bar will be available. The evening also includes an elaborate selection of silent and live auction items donated by local supporters.
“There’s a sense of urgency because we got a later start than we would have liked,” Cancer Coalition of South Georgia Development Manager Melissa Goodin said. “Fortunately, though, there’s the same level of energy there’s always been with this committee and this event.”
Tickets for A Night for Hope are $100, while sponsorships are available at various levels: Gold, $3,500; Silver, $2,500; Bronze $1,000; Hope, $500. Tables with seating for eight are available for $1,000. The Cancer Coalition is also seeking auction donations.
“We want — and we expect — this to be the same great event it’s always been,” Mitchell said. “By joining forces with the Cancer Coalition, the committee has access now to a much broader base of contacts. And by working with the Coalition’s staff, we have an even greater level of ideas and support.
“In the past, the impetus was always with the committee. Now we feel like we’ve joined forces.”
General questions about A Night for Hope or about sponsorship and auction donations may be directed to Goodin at (229) 312-1706 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are available by calling (229) 312-1700 or online at www.sgacancer.org.