by Carol Cowdrey
Special to The Leaven
OVERLAND PARK — Nearly 2,000 people are expected to attend the 44th annual Snow Ball benefiting Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas on Jan. 20 at the Overland Park Convention Center.
Although it is one of the largest philanthropic events in the Kansas City area, the night itself is not a fundraiser — it’s a celebration.
“What sets this event apart is there’s no formal ask or auction that evening. We’re there to celebrate the success of funds raised leading up to Snow Ball, and the generosity of our donors,” said Mike Bukaty. “It’s also a platform to share, in a very moving way, how those funds are used by Catholic Charities throughout the year to help families in need.”
Mike and his wife Maureen, parishioners of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood, are this year’s Snow Ball presidents.
“When we were raising our young children, it was easier to write a check than to actually volunteer our time. Now that our children are grown, we wanted to give back our time as well,” said Mike.
Since attending her first Snow Ball 18 years ago, Maureen has been struck by the breadth of services offered by Catholic Charities.
“It’s not a single service agency. They offer a variety of programs for children, adults and seniors,” she said. “More importantly, there’s a big misconception that Catholic Charities only serves Catholics. It’s not true. They help whoever needs it.”
John and Mary Campbell, parishioners of Church of the Nativity, Leawood, have been actively involved with Catholic Charities for more than 30 years. They’ve spent the last two years serving as the Snow Ball Patron Committee chairs.
“We’re involved because we believe that we have an obligation to give back and help people of all faiths,” said John.
They also share a strong and loyal belief that Catholic Charities uses its funds wisely.
“If someone needs assistance, they’re going to get assistance without judgment,” John said. “Catholic Charities is there to serve.”
Church of the Ascension, Overland Park, parishioners Joe and Melissa Valenciano joined the Snow Ball Table Committee before ever attending the event. Seven years later, they are that committee’s co-chairs, working tirelessly toward a personal goal of filling 200 tables this year.
“It’s exciting to be around a great group of people who share your faith and purpose to want to do more,” said Joe. “The committee work can be exhausting, but there’s such positive energy the night of Snow Ball that you become revitalized and you’re ready to do it all again.”
Snow Ball is Catholic Charities’ single largest fundraiser, accounting for half of all private donations.
“One hundred percent of Snow Ball funds are raised by volunteers who dedicate months and months of time, year after year, in answer to God’s call to serve,” said Ken Williams, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. “There’s no way to describe it, but to say we are truly blessed.”
In addition to raising funds and awareness, Snow Ball is about creating a legacy of service for future generations.
“There are some awesome young people out there who maybe don’t have the time and treasure to commit to Snow Ball, but they have the heart for it,” said John. “We want to engage them so that, 20 years from now, they step up in a leadership role.”
Kyle Teahan knows firsthand about that legacy. His grandparents, Rich and JoAnne Teahan, served as Snow Ball presidents in 1992 and 1993 and are credited with taking the event to a higher level. Two years ago, he was honored to follow in their footsteps and join the Snow Ball Patron Committee.
“It’s been inspiring to see the impact a small group of people can have on the lives of those less fortunate,” Kyle said. “Snow Ball is a good reminder for my generation that, individually, we may feel that we can only make a small difference.
“But, collectively, we can do great things.”