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Hearts & Diamonds 2017

by Chelsea Cliff
February 22, 2017

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 Joe Capesius and his son Bryce, they were the 2017 guest of honor. Photo Credit: Let Me Capture You Photography

The House that is filled with love, hope, and children with medical difficulties is the House that needs our support. Over the past 14 years, Sterling State Bank is fortunate to be able to give back to this special house -- the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, MN – through our role as the founding Premier Sponsor of the annual Hearts & Diamonds Spectacular. This annual event benefits the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, MN and was held on February 4, 2017, at Somerby Golf Course. Justin McNeilus, President of Sterling State Bank, has been a regular attendee at this benefit event for the past ten years. For him, and all the attendees, the most important aspects of this remarkable benefit remain the families who rely on the hospitality of the Ronald McDonald House and the strong support from a local community. A community that comes together year after year to support the House. Recently, Justin McNeilus sat down to share some of his thoughts on this annual fundraising event and Sterling State Bank’s role as the founding, Premier sponsor.


CC: When was your first time attending this event, what was your first impression?
JM: I think it was around ten years ago. I guess I would say that there are many committed community members involved with this organization, as my first impression.

CC: What makes this event special?
JM: The cause. I think it’s also fun for people to get dressed up, have a good meal, and have the chance to win diamonds but overall the focus is on Ronald McDonald House.

CC: How did Sterling become the Premier sponsor for the event?
JM: They asked us, this was when Tom Winkels was President. (Tom Winkels was Sterling State Bank’s Chief Credit Officer, former President and Chief Operating Officer; he passed away in 2016.)

CC: This event sells out quickly, do a lot of the same community members attend or are there quite a few new attendees each year?
JM: This year they asked the audience who was new to the event and I would say a quarter or so were new to the event. I see some of the same people each year, but there seems to be a good mix of new and regular attendees in the crowd.

CC: Have you or any of the bank’s employees ever won diamonds?
JM: I think that Dave’s wife, and Lonny’s wife have each won throughout the years. (Dave Wittenberg won a diamond circle pendant in 2007. Dave Wittenberg, recently retired after many years as a Commercial Lender at Sterling State Bank. Lonny Hickey’s wife Michelle won a diamond bracelet in 2013. Lonny is currently a Commercial Lender at Sterling State Bank.)

CC: How would you describe the event in 3 words?
JM: Just 3 words? Hope, Community, Elegant sum it up pretty well.

CC: Who was the speaker this year?
JM: The father of a 15-year-old boy who had recently completed cancer treatment and stayed at the House. It was an inspiring story about their family and their son Bryce’s success with treatment. (Joe Capesius spoke at this year’s event about his son Bryce – who completed chemotherapy and proton beam treatment in Rochester, MN while staying at the Ronald McDonald House for nine months. Bryce was diagnosed in the summer of 2015 and is currently in remission.)

CC: Live music or DJ?
JM: Live music. People are dancing until midnight, although I’m not much of a dancer myself.

CC: This year your wife Stephanie played the harp, how long has she played this instrument? How did she get involved with being a musician for this year’s event?
JM: She’s played for over 20 years; this year was the first year they asked her to at the event. She played for about an hour as people were coming in, at the very beginning of the evening.

CC: What it is about this cause that you connect most to?
JM: Now that I have kids of my own, and seeing other young kids going through cancer – it makes me see it in a whole new light. I hate to see any family go through that, but this house, it gives them hope.

CC: It sounds like a sense of community really is what the night is all about, and that there’s a lot of fun too.
JM: It is. It’s a great evening and I look forward to it each year. We are thankful for the overwhelming generosity of the local community and those who attended the Hearts & Diamonds Spectacular.

This year the “Fill the House with Love” appeal during the event raised $70,000 for the Ronald McDonald House. If you want to volunteer or donate it’s easy to do so by visiting: www.rmhrmn.org. Additionally, please mark your calendar for our next Cans for Kids date on March 4, which helps raise money for the House while recycling! We appreciate all that our local community does to support organizations that help those in need. And we remain grateful for the opportunity to play a small part in supporting such a wonderful cause.

See additional photos from the event here.

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