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Anniversary Celebration

Annual Ball looks to past, collects funds for future

Heather Vaught of Springfield bids on tickets to the 2013 Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn. Toney Thornhill (left) from Illinois Charity Auctions announces her bid as she raises her bid number.
Heather Vaught of Springfield bids on tickets to the 2013 Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn. Toney Thornhill (left) from Illinois Charity Auctions announces her bid as she raises her bid number.

It was 45 years ago exactly Saturday that the very first Morris Hospital Auxiliary Charity Ball was held.

To celebrate, the ball this year had some special guests who were also present at the very first occasion.

“I don’t know how we came up with this idea, but we started an annual tradition,” said Karen Hynds, auxiliary president in 1968.

“But we didn’t know it,” added Beatrice Conley, chairwoman of the first ball committee.

These women, as well as a few others who were a part of the ball’s early years, were recognized at the “Bella Notte” ball, which means “Beautiful Night” in Italian, held Saturday at the Patrick C. Haley Mansion in Joliet.

This year, the Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers’ ball proceeds will benefit the Flood Recovery and Prevention Fund.

About 280 people attended the event, which was moved to the July date to celebrate on the actual anniversary date, said Hannah Wehrle, development officer for Morris Hospital.

Fundraising totals are still being counted, but the event’s “Fund-A-Need” portion raised a little more than $70,000 in about 10 minutes, said Wehrle. The goal for the “Fund-A-Need” was $60,000.

“It was amazing, we had no idea we were going to raise that kind of money,” said Shawn Hornsby, auxiliary president. “There are a lot of generous people in the room and just about everyone got involved in it.”

The donations ranged from $10,000 to $100 and came from doctors to guests of the ball present just for a nice evening out.

A video was shown describing the effects of the April 18 flood on Morris Hospital, which for the first time in 107 years had to evacuate patients and stop patient services.

On April 18, Morris received 3.88 inches of rain in 24 hours, according to the video. This caused flash flooding and Nettle Creek to flood into the storm sewers that flow underneath Morris Hospital’s campus. The parking lots flooded over and staff, first responders and volunteers tried to stack sandbags to save the hospital from the rising water, but the water made its way into the basement of the building through its loading area.

The pharmacy, lab, kitchen, medical records and information technology area were flooded, causing the hospital to have to refuse most patients. It took 13 days for operations to be restored.

The hospital had about $1.1 million in damages and repairs and $2 million in lost revenue. Insurance and FEMA are expected to reimburse about $500,000. But the hospital still has about $254,000 in expenses to protect itself from this happening again.

“We have been working diligently with officials and experts over the past few months, exploring all of our options for protecting our hospital from future flooding,” said Mark Steadham, CEO, to the attendees.

“We, too, are disappointed to learn that we can’t stop the flood waters from coming on our campus in these extreme circumstances. However, we can stop flood water from coming in our hospital,” he continued.

So far, the wall at the bottom of the receiving dock has been replaced with a solid concrete wall that cannot be penetrated by water, said Steadham. Flood barriers have also been purchased to be deployed when needed.

But there is more to be done, he said, which is where the more than $70,000 raised for the “Fund-A-Need” will go.

“This just shows what a great community we have and how supportive our community is of Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers,” said Steadham.

In addition to this, ball-goers contributed by bidding on silent and live auction items such as romantic getaways, diamond jewelry, and floor seats to the Chicago Bulls.

Guests also enjoyed dinner and dancing to the Chicago Groove Collective.

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