Valentine Ball: A tradition continues

It was envisioned as Beaufort’s social affair of the season. The inaugural Valentine Ball was going to be an elegant black tie soiree unlike any other charity function in the community.

“We were trying to think of a big event that would be different from other Beaufort fundraisers,” said Weezie Gibson, who was serving on the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation board of trustees when the concept for the gala was conceived 25 years ago. “People were just winding down from months spent helping victims of Hurricane Hugo. The ball would be a great way to lift their spirits.”

Co-chairpersons Melissa Bliley and Weezie Gibson meet to plan the Beaufort Memorial Foundation Valentine Ball.
Co-chairpersons Melissa Bliley and Weezie Gibson meet to plan the Beaufort Memorial Foundation Valentine Ball.

To spark even more interest, organizers came up with the idea of having private dinner parties all over town where small groups of friends could meet up before going to the main event.

The plan worked like a charm.

“So many people bought tickets, we didn’t have enough dinner parties to accommodate everyone,” said Gibson, who co-chaired the 1990 Valentine Ball with her husband Jim. “We had to find a party for 30 people.”

With little time left to recruit volunteer hosts, the Gibsons decided to host a party themselves at the Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club.

“It was a men’s club, so it was a very casual setting,” Gibson recalled. “To spruce things up, we brought in linens and all our good china and silver. We used camellias to decorate the tables and candles to create ambiance.”

Yacht club chef Larry Taylor prepared a delicious dinner of prime rib and roasted potatoes. Around 9 p.m., the group joined the other guests at the Officers’ Club on Parris Island for the gala.

“It turned out to be a huge success,” Gibson said. “We had hoped to raise $10,000 for the hospital, but ended up generating $30,000. That was a lot of money back then.”

On the 25th year of the Valentine Ball, Gibson and her husband have stepped up to once again co-chair what has become one of Beaufort’s most anticipated parties. They will share the top post with dentist Dr. Aaron Bliley and his wife, Melissa.

The Feb. 8 black tie gala will be held at the new Beaufort Memorial Medical & Administrative Center on Ribaut Road across from the hospital.

Approximately 600 people are expected to attend the 2014 ball. Everyone who buys a ticket by Friday, Jan. 17 will receive an invitation to one of the 50 privately hosted dinner parties taking place throughout Beaufort.

“The dinner parties are the key to the ball’s success,” Gibson said. “It’s fun going to a home where you’ve never been, meeting new people and enjoying a nice meal.”

After the intimate dinners, guests will make their way to the ball venue for dancing, dessert and a silent auction. Among the many unique items up for bid is a dinner for eight at the South Carolina Yacht Club’s wine cellar. Guests will be transported to the Hilton Head Island club by boat for a five-course meal that will include perfectly paired wines with each course.

Proceeds from this year’s ball will be used to expand the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit from eight to 12 beds. To date, the fundraiser has generated nearly $4 million for upgrades to Beaufort Memorial’s facilities, technology and services.

Tickets to the Valentine Ball start at $150 per person and include several levels of tickets and sponsorships. Reservations should be made by Jan. 17 in order to attend one of the dinner parties. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.valentineball.org or call 843-522-5774.

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