Hearts & Diamonds
by Chelsea Cliff
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
From floor length evening gowns to regal dining place settings, the 13th annual Hearts & Diamonds Spectacular dazzled attendees with an evening devoted to raising money for Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Rochester, MN. Throughout the night personal stories, generosity and a sense of community filled the room. This year’s event took place on February 6, 2016 at the Somerby Golf Club in Byron, MN.
The mission of the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester is to provide a welcoming, affordable place to stay for families with sick children while these children receive medical treatment.
“The mission of RMH is so important for families who are facing great hardship. It truly is a home away from home, offering children crafts, school lessons and pet therapy while they or their siblings are in Rochester for medical appointments,” said Justin McNeilus, President of Sterling State Bank. Justin has been volunteering at the RMH in Rochester, MN for the past 9 years and Sterling State Bank is proud to have been a sponsor for the event since the very beginning.
Justin’s favorite moments at each year’s fundraiser are the guest speakers. Often these speakers are the parents, siblings or even the sick children themselves describing their experience at the Home. Their stories demonstrate in a real and powerful way how important the mission of the House is and the impact that money raised by the Hearts & Diamonds Spectacular is having in the local community.
Thanks to the help of many amazing volunteers, this year’s event started with a raffle for a number of prizes that included elegant diamond jewelry from Hight & Randall Personal Jewelers, a selection of fine spirits, and special gift packages. Guests also enjoyed a cocktail hour, dinner, dancing, and a special guest speaker.
“It’s a wonderful event in support of a great cause and tickets sell out in less than an hour,” concluded Justin. “We are grateful for the opportunity to take part in such a wonderful event and we are proud to be part of such a generous and compassionate community.”
This year’s guest speaker was Julie Bayles and her 15-year-old son, Seth. Julie spoke of Seth’s rare autoimmune disease and how their family would often travel more than 300 miles from their home in Bristol, Wisconsin for care at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
The RMH provided their family with a home away from home. Julie spoke of how blessed they felt to be in the supportive environment, and that not only did they make Seth feel special but his siblings as well. The House provided a place for the long, weary days of the clinic to be left at the door and for friendships to begin. At the RMH many other children are dealing with chronic illnesses and it’s a welcoming haven to those who are going through intense medical treatments. Seth and his family felt they wanted to do something back in Bristol, to fundraise for the RMH, in thanks for all that they have done for the Bayles.
In 2014 Seth set about to collect pop-tabs. The response he received was overwhelming. Schools in Bristol and surrounding communities along with local volunteers brought in not just bags but boxes full of pop-tabs. In the end Seth collected over 25,000 pop tabs to donate to the House. In 2014 nearly $18,000 in donations were accumulated through pop-tab collection. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference and reflected the support that Seth and his family received from their community.
Later on in the evening the Hearts & Diamonds dinner had a “Fill the House with Love” portion, raising enough money to cover a stay at the House for 836 room nights for families. The winners of the diamond prizes won an 18K white gold pendant necklace, a pair of earrings accented with 14 diamonds, and a pair of 14K yellow and white gold earrings. Live music provided by The R Factor helped close out a memorable evening.
During the course of the night over $100,000 was raised for the families and children that stay at the House. The proceeds were a record for the event, and the night was truly filled with warmth and kindness. Event sponsors included: Sterling State Bank, McNeilus Companies, Rochester Motor Cars, and the Somerby Golf Club. Special thanks as well to Hight & Randall on their longstanding partnership and support.
Start saving up your pop-tabs for the next collection day, June 25, 2016 at the Ronald McDonald house in Rochester from 8 a.m. to noon. More details and contact information can be found here.