The 2nd annual Last Chance for White Pants Gala celebrated the care and compassion of VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana on Saturday at the Blue Chip Hotel and Casino. Staff, volunteers, donors and those affected by the work of VNA broke out their still-summer fashion to raise funds to update the Horton Hospice Center in Valparaiso.
Guests were treated to an open bar sponsored by MacLennan & Bain Insurance, a filet and chicken dinner sponsored by Thrivent Financial of Northwest Indiana, and a DIY sundae sponsored by Chester, Inc. The cocktail hour allowed guests to mingle with friends and bid on silent auction items, while The Unit played smooth tunes to lend a little atmosphere.
As the silent auction drew to a close, a live auction raised more than $5000, with winners receiving trips to Mexico and New Orleans. After dinner, a “last donor standing” cash donation round offered guests the opportunity to donate at tiers starting at $2000 and ending at $100. The “last donor standing,” or the last guest to donate $100, won a stay at the Blue Chip with breakfast and a wine set gift basket.
Speakers shared their experiences with the VNA as a gateway to their own involvement with the cause. Cindy Jennings of Griffith attended with her daughter, Amanda, who has served on the planning committee for the event and noted that its success has made the VNA hopeful that it will be held annually. The Jennings first became involved with the VNA through Meals on Wheels after Amanda’s son was provided support through the Phoenix Center.
“We took our grandson to the Phoenix Center when his father passed away,” Cindy said of the free service. “It made an impression on us because they had all these kids his age, which was only three or four, talking together about loss. That’s a difficult subject even for adults.”
Chairman of the Board and Last Chance for White Pants, Cindy Kaariainen-Tougaw, explained that the Phoenix Center is built around empathy, allowing children of the same age group to connect around the idea that “Yes, I also know what it feels like to lose a loved one.”
With over 200 active volunteers, Interim President and CEO Leigh Morris made sure to note that the VNA is always recruiting the kind of people who can bring compassion and “Our volunteers have the desire to make a positive difference in the lives of other people, and this is a great way to do that,” said Morris. “In this case, you have a direct impact on the lives of patients and their loved ones. “It’s exciting to hear from people whose lives have been affected by the VNA,” he said.
25-year volunteer Lynda Krueger of Valparaiso enjoyed her dinner and the soothing sound of music around people she has worked with for years. Of the Last Chance for White Pants Gala, Krueger agreed that renovations on the nearly 20-year-old Hospice Center will help enhance the experience of the more than 100 patients and their loved ones throughout Lake, Porter, LaPorte and Jasper Counties that they serve every day, 365 days a year. “It’s a nice, peaceful surrounding,” Krueger said. “It’s very calm and people can come and go. There are all the nurses and social workers. Everybody’s there to give you emotional support.”
Kristin Jurczak of Dyer works with VNA Hospice through Spark Marketing, the company she founded. She attended the event in support of Hospice’s mission and values. “Tonight is an opportunity to give back to an organization that gives so much peace to families in their time of need,” she said. Morris added, “We can help avoid pain and distress for our patients and their loved ones, but quality of life is what this organization is all about.”