Photo above from left: Luke Baxely and Geneva; Mary Lou and Bob Cullen.
Beaufort Memorial was always the goal. Ever since Luke Baxley first worked in the emergency room during one of his medical school rotations, he had his heart set on returning. His wife-to-be Geneva had been working in New York as a photographer and actress on As the World Turns, but she too was ready for a change and was earning a second degree at Duke’s School of Nursing. So when the childhood friends reconnected at Luke’s sister’s wedding and sparks flew, there was no question that Beaufort was going to be their home – and that Beaufort Memorial was going to be their hospital.
Luke assumed the role of assistant director of the Emergency Room soon thereafter, and Geneva began her nursing career on the 5th floor medical/surgical unit. And now, years later, the couple is assuming a new role – as co-chairs of the 27th Annual Valentine Ball.
“The hospital is what brought us here and has always been a key part of our daily life,” they explain “so we are both honored and grateful to be able to support this event.”
Joining them as co-chairs are Bob and Mary Lou Cullen who have been actively involved with the Ball as both committee volunteers and dinner party hosts ever since moving here from Seattle 15 years ago.
Like Geneva, Mary Lou is a nurse by training, and Bob was president of a systems engineering company that the couple founded 35 years ago. Since their retirement, the Cullens have been wholly dedicated to giving back to their community – in addition to all of their efforts on behalf of the Ball and their church, she volunteers with hospice patients, and he ministers to the area’s nursing homes.
You can ask any of them about the upcoming Ball, and their collective enthusiasm is positively contagious. “The band this year is going to be amazing,” Geneva gushes. “As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen literally hundreds of bands play, and Rubberband is far and away the very best. I just can’t wait!”
Neither can we. More than 600 people are expected to attend this year’s black tie fundraiser, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6, with its “The Golden Age of Hollywood” theme. Guests who purchase tickets before the Jan. 12TH RSVP deadline will also be invited to attend one of the privately-hosted pre-ball dinner parties held in many of Beaufort’s most beautiful homes and special venues. “The dinner parties are all about connections and coincidences,” explains Mary Lou, “They’re always tremendous fun and a great way to meet new people!”
After dinner, guests will progress to the Ball for an evening of dancing, a silent auction, and tiers of elaborate desserts. Once again this year, the event will be held at the Beaufort Memorial Medical and Administrative Center (BMAC), located directly across from the hospital.
Since its inception in 1990, the Valentine Ball has provided nearly $4.5 million to the non-profit hospital. Bob and Mary Lou have long felt that the fact “that the community comes together to focus on improving one specific sector of the hospital each year highlights what makes Beaufort such a very special place.”
Proceeds from the 2016 Valentine Ball will help fund the renovation of the Collins Birthing Center, where up to 100 babies are delivered each month. Now working as a postpartum nurse herself, Geneva is quick to point out that “the environment really is so very important during this most special time for new mothers and their families.”
In addition to new patient-friendly porte-cochere entrances, all of the labor, delivery and postpartum rooms will be updated with soothing colors, paneled doors, new furnishings and sconces to provide dim lighting. New fetal monitoring equipment will allow patients to move around more freely during labor, and a completely revamped nurse’s station and call system will help physicians and nurses track each patient’s progress with the latest technology. Visitors will also have a new waiting room to gather for the big event, complete with large-screen TVs, a refreshment bar, and beautiful views of the outdoor garden.
Tickets to the 27th Annual Valentine Ball start at $150 per person (which includes the pre-ball dinner party). For more information or to purchase tickets, please call (843) 522-5774 or visit www.valentineball.org.