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Morris Hospital Auxiliary hosts first Wild West Fest

CHANNAHON – The idea was to add a third fundraising event – one that is different than the others Morris Hospital Auxiliary features every year.

And the newest event – Wild West Fest – appeared to be a hit in its first year, raising more than $7,000, said Hannah Wehrle, development officer for Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers.

“The board has been talking about this for quite some time,” she said. “This is the first year that we decided to roll with it and introduce something new into our auxiliary event lineup.”

The inaugural Wild West Fest was held Saturday night at Dollinger Family Farm in Channahon. All proceeds benefit the Infant and Pediatric Security System at Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers. The auxiliary’s other two annual events are the Golf Outing & Bridge/Euchre Tournament and the Charity Gala.

Morris Hospital has a security system that serves as a safety net for newborns and their families. This system includes the use of the Hugs system, which delivers an unprecedented level of security, according to information from Wehrle. Across the world, this system protects more than 1.5 million infants every year in 1,300 hospitals.

A special events committee, which includes members from both the community and the auxiliary board, came up with the western-themed concept, a more casual affair than the other two benefits. 

“We started brainstorming ideas on what we thought would be really fun for our area,” Wehrle said. “With a farming community. ... We thought about this whole western feel, and we ran with it. And, Wild West Fest was born.”

Among the activities were music by The Clients, line dancing and performances from the Coyote Moon Dancers, hayrides, auctions, a photo booth and other events. Barbecue-style food was served.

One of the highlights in a “pick-a-prize” auction was the chance to win third-row tickets to a concert, which will be held at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater in Tinley Park, by country singers Miranda Lambert, Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett. It included green room access and VIP treatment.

The food vendors were R-Place and Ron’s Barbecue Shack from Morris and Cobblestone Bistro from Yorkville. Ebbey George’s of Morris, which sold beverages separately, donated half of its proceeds back to the auxiliary. There were also other event sponsors as well as numerous auction donors.

Karen Hynds of Morris, among the 200-plus who attended, noted how generous Dollinger Farm was with the use of its place.

“It was a nice event for a worthy cause,” she said. “It was very fun and a beautiful evening.”

The vice president of the auxiliary board, Judie Roth, also was enthusiastic about the event.

“This is the first time that we have done anything like this, and we’re hoping to do it again,” Roth said. “We hope to make it an annual event.”

Sheila Funk, who worked at the door with Roth, was pleased with the way the evening unfolded.

“It’s great, and we were fortunate with this weather,” Funk said.

Noreen Dollinger of Dollinger Farm also reveled in the idea of a country-themed benefit. She serves as president of the Morris Hospital Foundation.

“Our job is to raise money for the awesome people who work at Morris Hospital,” she said. “It’s a very well-run organization, and all the workers are very passionate about what they do.”

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