Charity Ball Williston4 Banner 2020

The CHI St. Alexius Williston Foundation made a difficult decision in May when it decided to cancel all in-person fundraising for the rest of the year — one made even harder by the fact its the hospital’s 100th anniversary.

Originally, the foundation had planned to combine its major annual fundraiser — a charity ball — with its 100th anniversary on Oct. 16. Because of the pandemic, that isn’t going to happen. But CHI is still going to celebrate the milestone. Here’s what you need to know.

1. COVID-19 changed everything — again

Janna Lutz, executive director of the CHI Foundation, said the hospital and the foundation board decided early on that safety was more important than an in-person event.

“Yes, it’s important to fundraise,” Lutz told the Williston Herald. “It’s just as important to keep everyone safe.”

That meant a move from the traditional charity ball with a centennial theme. Instead, the foundation has created an event with virtual entertainment and speeches and, at the heart, an online auction.

2. Centennial celebration still

The charity ball had been planned for Oct. 16, because it was on Oct. 16, 1920 that the hospital first opened its doors. Even though the in-person festivities have been deferred, the starting date will still be Oct. 16.

“We’re excited about that date, and wanted to keep that as a date to celebrate,” Lutz said.

3. More time to celebrate

While the charity ball of years past was a big affair, drawing 350 or more people and including live and silent auctions, it was one night. The online auction, on the other hand, starts Oct. 16 but runs for a full week, until Oct. 23. Bidding opens at 12 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16 and runs until 8 p.m. Oct. 23. Audio and video entertainment will also be live on the auction site the whole time.

4. Dozens of lots up for grabs

In all, there are 63 packages crossing the virtual auction block during the event. The range from decorative items and gift certificate packages to themed baskets and vacation packages.

Lutz pointed out there are locally-themed packages, as well. One lets shoppers explore downtown WIlliston. It includes gift cards to Grace & Glam, Hops & Berry taproom, Los Compadres, Fresh Palate, Style uncorked and Jackie’s Wellness Spa.

There are packages for just about every taste, including a camping adventure on the Yellowstone or Russian rivers and event catering by a grilled cheese food truck.

“We’ve got a lot of really good stuff on there,” Lutz said.

5. Major source of support

The CHI Foundation, like many others, finds itself in a challenging position. Restrictions, including a time when all elective surgery was canceled, have cut into the money coming in, but the need is greater than ever.

The charity ball was the foundation’s biggest fundraiser, and it brought in money to buy new equipment to care for patients. The money from the auction will take its place now. While it won’t have the advantage of being a big, in-person event, Lutz is hopeful the online aspect will help.

“You don’t have to be in Williston to bid and support the hospital,” she said.

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