by Carolyn Kaberline
If there’s one thing Paul and Mary Thompson learned as honorary presidents of last year’s Catholic Charities’ Snow Ball, it was that they and the event’s presidents weren’t really in charge.
“The Holy Spirit was!” said Mary Thompson, noting that just 36 hours before the 2014 Snow Ball, it looked as though the goal of raising two million dollars — the highest goal ever — wouldn’t be realized. “But then something amazing happened, and a dedicated group of leaders pooled their resources, and the goal was met.”
Thompson was quick to note that it was the incredible faith and leadership of presidents Charlie and Jean Haake and patron committee chairperson Dave Knopke that made the attainment of the goal for the 40th anniversary of the Snow Ball possible and allowed the event to be a true celebration.
This year’s Snow Ball will be held Jan. 24 at the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center Exhibition Hall in Kansas City, Missouri, with a similar goal: two million dollars.
“This year has been full of unexpected and sacrificial gifts as well,” said Thompson. “We learned there are a lot of kind and generous people in our archdiocese, who really care about our neighbors in need. Also our eyes were opened to the spread of poverty, even to those who are educated and skilled.”
The Thompsons, who have belonged to Church of the Nativity Parish in Leawood for the past 21 years, will be helped by the William H. Dunn family, the honorary presidents for the 2015 Snow Ball. The Dunns, members of St. Ann Parish in Prairie Village for the past 30 years, have been involved with the Snow Ball from its very beginning.
That beginning dates back to 1974 and was the result of the efforts of organizers John Phillips and John Fogarty. The first event, named the St. Martin of Tours Gala and held at the former Glenwood Manor Hotel in Overland Park, featured a $25 per couple potluck. The event soon gained widespread attention, however, and the amount raised grew each year. The name Snow Ball was given to the event several years later when it was noted that snow almost always fell on or around the event’s scheduled date.
“The Snow Ball presidents and honorary presidents do an incredible amount of work from May to January each year to ensure the success of our largest fundraiser,” said Ken Williams, president and CEO of Catholic Charities. “Snow Ball annually generates about 50 percent of all of the private donations Catholic Charities receives in a given year.”
Williams explained that the presidents and honorary presidents, who each serve one-year terms, are selected by members of the Snow Ball Patron Cabinet according to certain criteria: They must be well-respected families inside and outside of the Catholic Church, supporters of Catholic Charities, and people who have made positive contributions to Kansas City and communities throughout northeast Kansas.
“The presidents must serve as vice presidents the year prior to their term as presidents,” said Williams. “This allows them to shadow the presidents and see how this all works. It also gives them the opportunity to take mental notes as to how they might want to put their personal stamp on the event during their term as presidents.”
Among their duties, Williams said, is “raising awareness for Catholic Charities ministries, functioning as chief fundraisers for the year and providing counsel on the event itself, such as the theme, menu and decorations.”
While organizing the Snow Ball takes a lot of time, this year’s presidents and honorary presidents are more than willing to give of themselves.
“We are quite concerned with the culture that exists in our society today, and many of the needs are assisted by the programs in Catholic Charities,” said William Dunn Sr., adding that the breakdown of families many years ago led to more incidents of single-parent families, lower high school graduation rates and more societal problems.
“We have hope for the future because of the many programs of Catholic Charities and the volunteers who man them,” he added.
Although Thompson said she and her husband are busy people, they give their time to Catholic Charities “because there is a need, and Catholic Charities is able to meet the need in the most efficient way possible.”
“We totally agree with their philosophy that as Christians, we need to offer a hand up, not just a hand out,” said Thompson. “We also found the old adage is true: The more you give, the more you receive.”
“That has certainly been our experience in volunteering for Catholic Charities,” she said. “We are humbled by the people we have met, and our lives have been enriched by our experiences.”
More information on this year’s Snow Ball can be found on the Catholic Charities website at: http://catholiccharities ks.org/special-events/snow-ball.