Ponoka residents and businesses have shown they value the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre as demonstrated by a strong turnout at the second Ponoka Festival of Trees.
The fundraiser is aimed at supporting the Ponoka and District Health Foundation, which raises money to benefit the hospital. The kick off to the festival was Thursday, Nov. 19 at the Calnash Ag Event Centre with auctioneer Danny Hooper working the crowd to raise big dollars for the foundation.
The goal this year is to raise enough money, approximately $50,000, for a new labour and delivery bed. Lisa Barrett, manager of acute care at the hospital said deliveries at the hospital have doubled in the last four years. A new bed will help doctors and nurses further improve births in Ponoka.
Before the auction even started, Hooper was able to secure a guarantee of $5,000 from Mark Miller, of MGM Land Services, if attendees could raise $15,000. And they did just that with further donations from different individuals and groups.
“We made $15,000 that we didn’t have 10 to 15 minutes ago,” stated Hooper to a proud audience.
The fundraising magic continued through the night with Hooper working his comedic talent and auctioneer skills. By the end of the dinner, more than $50,000 was raised, said Sherry Gummow, co-organizer of the festival.
“I think it was an overwhelming success,” added Gummow.
Hooper appeared dedicated to make the event a solid fundraiser. Rather than settle for a high bid of $200 for a package of more than 100 cupcakes, Hooper stopped the live auction and managed to auction off packs of a dozen cupcakes for $100, thereby increasing the money raised for that item.
Joanne McMillan is the past chairperson of the hospital foundation and she was encouraged to see such strong support from residents, considering the economic outlook.
“We, as the recipients, are absolutely thrilled with the generosity and turnout,” said McMillan.
With attendance at the fundraiser twice the size as it was last year, many of the people present have probably had to use hospital services at one time or another, explained McMillan. She feels residents see how important the hospital is to the town.
Final figure for money garnered from the fundraiser was not available at press time, but Gummow said the committee would know it by next week. She added her thanks to the committee, volunteers, individuals and businesses that stepped up to show their support.
Indeed, several times Hooper, seeing strong demand for a donated package would ask the business if they would donate a second one for the fundraiser. One example was the Laurie River Lodge all inclusive package. After being asked by Hooper, owner Brent Fleck offered a second package and both went for $8,000 each.
“The sponsors this year stepped right up,” stated Barrett.
Breakfast with Santa proved to be an exciting part of the festival, which sold out completely. Gummow added that offering catered service at the seniors’ tea on Friday was a welcome change for attendees.