The American Red Cross is planning to hold its biggest fundraiser next week and though it is being booked as a ball, it won't be a typical black tie affair.
According to Red Cross senior director Devin H. Cleary, the ninth annual Red, White & You Ball will be a chance for the humanitarian organization to educate the public on their services as well as connect with their donors and people impacted by their programs.
"There are so many people that have a Red Cross story," said Paul Shipman, chief communication officer of the Connecticut and Rhode Island region of the American Red Cross.
And this year's theme for the ball is "What's your story." Cleary said they want people to think of their own connection to the Red Cross and share it with others that evening.
"We will be sharing many inspirational and interesting stories we have collected," Cleary said.
If you do not have a story with the Red Cross, then they are hoping the Red, White & You Ball will inspire you to start your own story with them by becoming a donor, a volunteer or a blood donor.
"Thankfully, I have never been in a disaster, but all too often I report on them. I have met many people on the worst day of their life and the Red Cross is there to help them take a breath and see life will go on," said WFSB Anchor Kara Sundlun, who will be assisting with the ball. "As the host of Better Connecticut, I like to shine the light on the good. The Red Cross is the first light so many see on their darkest day. I'm so honored to play a part in sharing that light."
Cleary said many people believe that the Red Cross only handles blood donations and major disasters, but he said they do much more.
"If you have no story with us, we hope you begin it with Red Cross that night," Shipman said.
Locally, Red Cross volunteers and members respond more than 500 times a year in Connecticut to emergencies such as house fires and other disasters.
"We are usually there before and after people think we are," Cleary said.
For military families alone, the Red Cross helps them with "emergency communications, counseling, advocacy and links to financial assistance."
The Red Cross also trains people on how to properly perform lifesaving CPR and first aid as well as training and certifying lifeguards and swim instructors.
At the Red, White & You Ball, the organization will celebrate 100 years of offering water safety programs.
Kim and Stew Leonard Jr. will be honored for their support and "generous donations" to the program, Cleary said.
The ball itself will not be the usual gala with numerous amounts of speeches, Cleary said. The event will feature several interactive activities and art exhibits all with a theme from Red Cross. Cleary called it an "amusement park for adults."
"We think that people will find the event both inspiring and entertaining," Cleary said.
The event will feature a few traditional ball elements including some speeches, dancing and an open bar.
Sundlun and her husband, WFSB anchor Dennis House, will be auctioning off some amazing items and spreading some good energy at the event.
"Every day we report on disasters, and so often it's the Red Cross there to pick up the pieces. Whether it's a house fire in Hartford or a tsunami in a faraway country the Red Cross helps people rebuild their lives. I'm excited to help build a new event that helps support a life changing mission right here in Connecticut," Sundlun said.
Cleary said the Red Cross receives no federal funding and relies on private and corporate donations. The Red Cross does not cost the community any money, Cleary added.
Cleary said the Red Cross is one of the top charities in the world because 91 percent of the money donated goes to their mission. He said any nonprofit putting 85 percent toward its mission is considered excellent.
The Red, White & You Ball will be held on April 26 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Kevin Negandhi, who is a sports anchor for ESPN's SportsCenter, will be the emcee for the event.
Tickets for the Red, White & You Ball are $250 and many are still available. To get your tickets, click here.
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