Over 200 attendees crowded the gorgeous Stardust Ballroom at the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel, and Spa Saturday evening, September 14th to share a meal and help raise awareness of the Visiting Nurses Association of Northwest Indiana, as well as to raise money needed to update the Arthur B. and Ethel V. Horton VNA Hospice Center in Valparaiso.
Lissa Yogan's mother had been in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities several times before an emergency room doctor finally suggested that Yogan and her family consider placing her mother in hospice.
"We moved her into the VNA, and it was delightful. We had a wonderful corner room in the back, where she could watch the birds outside."
When her mother entered the facility, she was having trouble swallowing and had lost most of her hearing. But, Yogan said, the stay at the VNA Hospice Center completely turned her around, and she ended up leaving the facility with restored hearing and eating functions.
"She did so well that she perked up in ways nobody expected," Yogan said. "It was amazing, and I credit that to the wonderful staff, the opportunity to get the rest she needed, and the joyful place."
"People came and visited every day. We napped. Our golden retriever slept at the end of her bed one day. It was just a really great experience for everybody," she continued.
Over the past 17 years, the doctors, nurses, and staff of the Visiting Nurses Association of Northwest Indiana (VNA of NWI) Hospice Center in Valparaiso have supported over 6,000 families through very difficult times.
At the VNA’s Last Chance for White Pants fundraising gala Saturday evening, many of those families and their extended community came together to return the favor, and to pay it forward for others in the future.
"We think of it not so much as a fundraiser, but really more of a friendraiser. It's a way for us to recognize all of our friends and supporters, families, volunteers and staff. Everybody that contributes to the VNA," said Robert Franko, President and CEO of VNA of Northwest Indiana.
The 2019 gala was the organization’s 3rd annual end-of-summer party and auction, held to raise funding for repair and refurbishment of the Arthur B. and Ethel V. Horton VNA Hospice Center. Money raised from previous events enabled the hospice center to update hospital beds, lay new flooring, install new lighting, and repaint. Proceeds from this year will be used to purchase new furnishings for each room and update technology infrastructure.
"Our world has changed a lot in 17 years, and so we really want to bring the center up to speed and make it more comfortable and more welcoming for the families," Franko said.
Gala attendees danced and mingled in the Blue Chip Casino Ballroom while enjoying a gourmet dinner, open bar, and live music provided by The Unit.
Guest Lynda Krueger has been a volunteer with the VNA for the past 26 years. She started volunteering originally because of an experience she had when her nephew was placed in hospice care in Alabama.
“That got me interested in what do you do when you have a terminal illness, how do you handle that,” Krueger explained. “People never know you need hospice until you do.”
"I think the reason I've stayed is because of the contacts I've made at the Hospice Center and the knowledge that you gain about death and dying and coping, and being able to share that with other people," she said. "I believe in the mission."
It was clear from the number of Regional sponsors, how much the Northwest Indiana community values the work done at the VNA Hospice Center. Indiana Beverage and the Leetz Family and Urschel Laboratories were the Gold Sponsor for this year’s event. The Bar Sponsors were Sarah and Rick DeMaris and the Dessert Sponsor was Wells Fargo. Silver Sponsors were La Porte and Porter Hospitals; Chester, Inc.; Good Hospitality Services; The Lukach Family in memory of Avis & Paul Lukach; Mutual of America; and, Donovan CPAs & Advisors.