As social affairs go, Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation’s winter fundraiser promises to be a ball. Some 50 elegant dinner parties have been planned all over town in some of the area’s finest homes.
And that’s just the warm-up for the main event — a black tie gala with live music, dancing and decadent desserts.
The much talked about Valentine Ball takes place Feb. 11 at Parris Island’s historic Lyceum Hall. As many as 800 people are expected to attend the soiree — the biggest annual fundraiser for the foundation. Proceeds from this year’s event will help pay for the expansion of the hospital’s emergency department.
“People recognize the importance of having a good community hospital,” said ball co-chair Tei Tober. “And there aren’t a lot of formal events in Beaufort. It’s fun to get dressed up at least once a year.”
Guests who make their reservations by Jan. 16 receive an invitation to one of the private dinner parties hosted by area residents.
“Everybody brings out their finest china and goblets,” said Becky Trask, who helped organize the first Valentine Ball in 1990 and has hosted countless parties over the years. “You try to make it really special with good food, an elegant place setting and beautiful decorations.”
Ball organizers spend a full day putting together the guest list for each dinner. Using a spread sheet, they carefully select six to 12 couples per party, creating different and diverse groups each year.
“The private dinner parties are what make the event so unique,” said co-chair Valerie Fisher, who has been involved with the ball since 2005. “It’s a great way to meet new people.”
About 9 p.m., the dinner parties break up and attendees head over to the gala where they are treated to a grand selection of desserts served on tiered serving pieces.
This year, the ball will feature A-town A-list, an Atlanta-based band specializing in a wide variety of dance music from disco to Motown to jazz and shag. Members of the talented group have shared the stage with some of the industry’s biggest names, including Bruce Springsteen, The Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder, The Black Eyed Peas and Jennifer Lopez.
The festivities also will include a silent auction and a late-night serving of ham biscuits and coffee.
Because the dinner party hosts foot the bill for the food served in their homes, more of the proceeds are left to be donated to the hospital. Last year, the ball raised $231,000. Over the last 22 years, more than $3.5 million has been contributed to the hospital to upgrade technology and expand and improve facilities and services.
“It’s a huge community affair,” Tober said. “It couldn’t happen without the help and support of Beaufort residents.”
Tickets to the Valentine Ball start at $150 per person. Reservations can be made online at www.valentineball.org or by calling (843) 522-5774.