On Saturday, March 8, Opportunity Enterprises (OE) hosted their annual Gala Ball at the Avalon Manor in Merrillville. Opportunity Enterprises, for those who don’t know, works with members of the Northwest Indiana community who face particular challenges and teach them life skills as well as match them up with employment opportunities. The Gala Ball is a fundraising effort which is done in conjunction with a silent auction, raffle and other fundraising activities. The event was well attended, with representatives from many area businesses as well as area non-profits.
Michelle Tatgenhorst (my wife, and the treasurer for HealthLinc) and I were in attendance, we have attended many OE events in the past and consider it among our favorite local causes. This was our first black tie (optional) event together. If you have never attended a black tie event, doing so for your favorite charity is definitely the way to get your feet wet. The event included the service of a fine meal, followed by several fund raising activities and culminating with some fine dancing by members of the community as well as some of OEs constituents.
Prior to dinner, guests mingled around the rows of tables holding the silent auction items and placed their bids. Many great local businesses had contributed items for bid, including; Arbor View Animal Hospital, Taltree Arboretum, Several area dental offices, Binder Jewelry and many more. The available items ranged from memberships, teeth whitening treatments all the way up to bicycles. The crowd was an absolute cross section of Valparaiso’s residents, everyone from obvious black tie frequenters to young up and coming business people there was even a United States Marine and his lovely date.
After the dinner service, they began showing info about ongoing OE programs as well as information about their newest concern, the Respite House. The Respite House represents an opportunity to serve the care givers of challenged individuals. Many families make incredible sacrifices to care for their loved ones and because of the importance of their role never get a break. The Respite House is staffed by qualified care givers and can facilitate a short stay by the individual and structure it in such a way that not only are they safe, but they are having their own vacation. Allowing their family to get some much needed time to recharge and invest in each other as fully. Additionally, it can serve as a temporary housing for an individual just getting ready to live on their own. Helping such individuals to identify other skills which they might need some work on prior to being alone for the first time.
Finally, the fundraising started. First, they raffled off a two year lease on a new VW Beetle provided by Team Auto from Valparaiso. We bought a few tickets, I will admit, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Then came the live auction, many fine items were presented. The best to see, was the OE artwork. Michelle and I love the Art Ability event with OE and seeing their artists fetch LARGE donations was a wonderful sight. I can tell you, those artists are very proud and committed to what they produce. Mike and Rebecca Hogan were present and won a trip to Italy for 2015, congratulations to them and thank you for the generous support of OE. An interesting thing happened after the live auction, Ellen DeMartinis went up and asked for donations auction style. She simply called out amounts, and people raised their paddles. Donations ranging from $5K to $50 were solicited in this manner and thousands were raised. The silent auction was of course, not announced (silent). Michelle and I did win a few items there.
I am happy to say that from what I have read, Opportunity Enterprises raised over $208,000 that night. I would urge you to look and see if any of your favorite charities do a similar event and give it a try, it was a wonderful evening. We are looking forward to OEs Denim and Diamonds event soon, maybe you can join us there.