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Volunteers one of the essential ingredients for Bonnyville Health Foundation gala

It was all hands on deck last Friday at the C2 centre as volunteers pulled together to ensure Flight 24 got off the ground without any delays.

BONNYVILLE – It was all hands on deck last Friday at the C2 centre as volunteers pulled together to ensure Flight 24 got off the ground without any delays. With 649 passengers expected to take their seats for the annual Bonnyville Health Foundation (BHF) fundraising gala the following day, the volunteer crew was on a mission.

BHF executive director Dawn Weber was easily spotted in a shimmering silver jacket, which she said was a subtle hint to what is in store for next year’s 25th silver anniversary gala. But for now, her attention was focused on the hundred and one details involved in piloting the 24th edition of what has become Bonnyville’s premier event of the year.

This week is National Volunteer Week in Canada recognizing the important contributions volunteers make to Canadian society. The Bonnyville hospital gala is among many events that depend on volunteers for its success. More than 100 volunteers were involved in making this year’s gala theme ‘Around the World’ a truly immersive experience, according to Weber. 

“The excitement comes with anxiety because we have a lot of moving parts and we are trying to pull off feeding 650 people in a timely manner and we depend on technology for this event, so it’s a stressful excitement,” she said, taking a few minutes from the preparations Friday to speak to Lakeland This Week.

“There’s a lot of dishes and stemware involved this year because we are serving a five-course dinner that is served to the tables. We usually do a buffet,” Weber explained of the attention to detail that has gone into the planning of the evening. “Each course is from a different country so that is how we are showcasing our flight around the world.”

As some volunteers placed linens, silverware and glasses and folded napkins to look like paper airplanes, others were organizing silent auction items, arranging feature displays and checking items off a lengthy ‘to-do’ list one by one.

From the initial planning to the night of the event itself, the gala’s success is always hugely dependent on the support of the community and this year was no different.

“The thing I am always excited for the most is the way Bonnyville gives and just being in the room and watching people put their hands up for our live auction,” Weber said, adding a record number of sponsors had stepped up with their support enabling the foundation to raise more money this year in sponsorship alone than any previous gala.

Asked what the fundraising goal was for Saturday night, Weber said, “All I can say is last year we broke our 23-year record and we raised $427,000, and I’m hoping to break a new record this year.”

Volunteer Rita Normand was among the volunteers Friday taking care of the finishing touches.

“I just want to do good; I want to help,” Normand said of why she volunteers. “I’m with the United Church Women – we support groups that help people, like the food bank and women’s shelter.”

Doing what she can to support the hospital is a way for her to give back for the care it has provided to her family members through the years. “They were all very helpful and thoughtful. We all benefit from the work of the hospital and staff."

Foundation board chairperson Amber Hughes is passionate about her involvement  with the hospital foundation, both from a governance perspective and fundraising role. She has served as chair for three years, been on the board for six years and is a long-time volunteer on the gala committee.

“We have amazing volunteers that come out and help us set up,” Hughes said looking at the beehive of activity around the room.

“The community gives so much both in corporate sponsorship and in silent auction items. They come to the event; they sell out the event and have a really great time,” she said, while raising money locally that stays in the local hospital to support items that otherwise would not be available.

“We’re probably raising close to half a million dollars every year now for the hospital. Our mission is enhancing good health care to great health care,” she said, explaining that the funds raised assist the hospital with items beyond what Alberta Health Services funding covers.

 “They (hospital management team) basically come to us with a wish list once a year and we are able to basically grant everything that they are asking for. It’s a good feeling.”


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