Mercy Health Foundation's annual gala goes virtual, needs community support

The Mercy Health Foundation of Clark and Champaign Counties won't be able to host its traditional in-person Gala this year. So, the 2020 Gala - "Together" - will instead by hosted via virtual platform at 7 p.m. Dec. 3,.

Foundation president Kristy Kohl McCready says COVID-19 has changed the shape of this year’s gala, but the goal remains the same - to make a difference in the Springfield community.

This year, funds raised at the Gala will benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, .Champaign, and Logan Counties.

“The needs of the community are significant,” says Kohl McCready. “We have a very strong Board of Directors, and they’re really focused on our efforts being of good help to people in these two communities.”

Kohl McCready says Second Harvest Foodbank has had a significant increase in the demand for their services, and the foundation wants to help with that need immediately.

While a live gala event typically raises up to $300,000, this year the Foundation hopes to raise $125,000 virtually.

With these funds, the Foundation’s long-term goal is to set up an onsite health care assistance program for clients of Second Harvest Foodbank that will be staffed with Mercy Health personnel.

“The clients are very familiar and comfortable there … all too often they don’t get healthcare. They don’t know what to expect or feel like they have the funds to pay for it,” says Kohl McCready. “We want to break down some of those barriers by taking healthcare professionals onsite and get people to the right places for treatment.”

Kohl McCready also says many people may have other chronic health issues, such as diabetes or heart failure, and those conditions along with others, require a specific diet.

“You have to provide not just a ‘box of food,’ but a box of the ‘right food’,” she says. “We’re going to utilize our dieticians and nutritionists to work with Second Harvest to put together these special needs boxes.”

Local philanthropist Patrick Field and his wife Tiffany along with John Landess with the Turner Foundation have committed to a matching grant of $50,000.

Field, president of Wallace and Turner Insurance, serves as the Board vice president of Second Harvest Foodbank. He says the partnership with Mercy will not only allow both entities to provide food to more people in need but also provide nutritional education to those served.

“The educational aspect is intended to address nutritional deficiencies and provide better service to those individuals with special needs,” Fields says. “I saw this as great opportunity to form a collaboration between Mercy and Second Harvest to address food insecurities in our community. Tiffany and I saw this as an opportunity to give something back to the community that has been so good to us, and we thrilled to partner with our longtime friend John Landess at the Turner Foundation to make this happen.”

Kohl McCready hopes to raise the $50,000 and achieve the match goal right away to ensure the healthcare initiative. “We need to take this assistance to the next level; we need to be offering healthcare onsite and help these people when they’re there and in a safe space,” she says.

During the next year, funds will support:

  • A dietitian on site to help prepare the most appropriate food choices for people managing chronic illness
  • A case manager available to connect Second Harvest clients with providers at walk-in clinics to address health needs, and the MedAssist program to help with prescription costs
  • Medical services at or near Second Harvest Food Bank

Celebrity alumni of both Clark and Champaign counties will be featured during the digital event, with actors Clancy Brown and Justin Chambers, actress and singer Leah Pearson-Finnie, vocal musicians Kate Hasting and Griffin House, violinists Kanako and Mariko Shimasaki, and professional baseball player Adam Eaton confirmed to participate.

There will be a live and silent auction with more than 100 items available. Tickets are $100 each or six for $500 and each ticket purchase comes with a gift bag. Gift bags can be picked up or delivered, and each one features local items from Clark and Champaign counties. To purchase tickets or donate, call the Mercy Health Foundation at 937-523-6670.

Kohl McCready says contributions will support Mercy Health's goal of reaching directly into local communities that are most in-need of support.

“This effort will bring our two organizations together into an initiative that has the potential to help thousands,” she says. “We’re eager to take the expertise residing within our walls and extend it beyond them to where we see great need and where we can have the biggest impact.

"We are proud to lead by example as we collaborate with a valued community partner and continue to make good on our commitment to healthcare equity.”

Read more articles by Darci Jordan.