WILLMAR -- Organizers of the Rice Health Foundation's annual holiday festival this month hope to raise a record $100,000 from the event.
Volunteers say they're heartened by the response so far and optimistic they will reach their ambitious goal.
The event already has a record number of corporate sponsorships and a record number of auction donations, as well as at least 25 new sponsors, organizers said. All 450 tickets for the evening dinner and auction are already sold.
"Our mission is to improve the lives of people all over this area. We really have a track record of doing that," said Sandi Unger, chairman of the holiday festival. "We are very grateful for the support from this community. A lot of us are proud of the health care in this region."
The holiday gala Nov. 9 and 10 is the nonprofit foundation's largest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds will go toward equipping and furnishing a resident activity center at the Rice Care Center.
The Rice Care Center project "really struck a chord" as the 36-member steering committee weighed the choices for which program should be the beneficiary of the fundraising, Unger said. "There's excitement about this. It will be very lasting."
By the time the event concludes, nearly 100 volunteers will have been involved in some way, from soliciting corporate support to taking tickets at the door to cleaning up afterwards.
"You can find volunteers to fill almost every skill set, whether it's marketing or graphic design," said Peggy Lister, co-chairman of the steering committee.
Known as much for its signature themes as for its fund-raising, the holiday festival this year has an "Under the Big Top" vintage-circus theme, a look that will be accomplished with the help of tenting, lighting, props such as popcorn and antique umbrellas, and a cast of characters that includes a ringmaster.
With careful budgeting, organizers "work miracles" with the theme, said Jean Raatz, development coordinator for the Rice Health Foundation.
"They work hard to get things donated or partially donated," she said. "We do keep our costs very, very tight."
Although tickets sold out this week for the gala dinner and auction on Nov. 9, they're still available for a lunch, holiday vendor exhibits and table setting display on Nov. 10. Attendance at the lunch and exhibits averages about 600 each year.
A major source of the money raised at the event is the silent and live auctions. Live-auction items this year include a guided fishing trip, a golf getaway, a hot-air balloon ride, a shopping trip, a fully decorated Christmas tree and tickets to the Twin Cities production of "Book of Mormon."
Guests also will have a chance to bid during the silent auction on a variety of home decoration and food items and tickets to sporting events.
Charitable giving through the Rice Health Foundation helps support hospital and health-related programs that often are greatly needed but difficult to sustain, Raatz said.
In previous years the foundation gala has raised money for high-tech hospital beds, comfortable furniture and other amenities for the dialysis center, and services provided by the Rice Hospital Grief Center.
"A lot of programs wouldn't get started without philanthropy," Raatz said. "It's costly to produce new programs that don't bring in revenue yet are needed. It's always very rewarding to find needs and see needs and help satisfy them, and donors want to have that satisfaction of making things happen."
The luncheon and table setting review is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Willmar Conference Center. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door ($5 for the review only). Tickets can be purchased at the Rice Health Foundation office at Rice Memorial Hospital during business hours Monday through Friday. For more information, visit www.ricehospital.com.