The Share Your Heart Ball, held annually in the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn, is not only an opportunity to eat, drink, dance, donate money and get dressed up, but an opportunity to feel part of something much larger.
Now on its 11th year, the Share Your Heart Ball has been raising money to benefit Idaho kids diagnosed with cancer through the American Cancer Society's Camp Rainbow Gold. “We sell out almost every year,” said Kari May, the Distinguished Events Director for Camp Rainbow Gold. With a venue that seats 500 people, they are able to raise anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 annually. There is a silent auction at the beginning of the night, with prizes like “Silver Oak's Finest,” including a three-liter bottle of 1988 Cabernet, followed by dinner, a live auction and plenty of dancing. This year, twin sisters Carlie and Courtney Despres got up and played a duet of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and later, 70s disco cover band Grooveline made crowds swarm the dance floor.
Camp Rainbow Gold, just north of Ketchum at the Cathedral Pines campground, was one of the first children’s oncology camps in the country. What started with only 15 kids has now grown to over 100 and continues to expand every year with the support of Idaho donors. There, kids can fish, swim, hike, canoe, horseback ride, laugh, bike, paint and, in so many ways, just live. “Children meet other children undergoing similar experiences who can share a bond only found here,” wrote Camp Rainbow Gold.
The Share Your Heart Ball was founded when two locals, Rob and Kris Cronin (owners of Zou 75) were touched by the Camp Rainbow Gold organization and decided to get involved. For ten years, they dedicated their time and energy to raise money for the event and to help turn it into the success it is today. But this year, they passed down their positions as Event Chairs to Al and Stephanie McCord—a couple out of Memphis, Tennessee. “We made a great team,” said Kris, of her and Rob, with sparkling eyes and a big smile. “But it’s time to move on … It took me years and years to hand pick the new couple, but I couldn’t be happier.”
As she passed on the microphone to her successors, the room erupted in applause, tears and a standing ovation for her. “The one gift people can give you in life or death is the gift of hope. And I thank you for doing this for the kids, because it is priceless,” added Kris, unable to hold back tears.
Al and Stephanie graciously accepted the position, thanking Rob and Kris (who remain the Founders and Honorary Chair Members) for their hard work and dedication, and also making a point to thank the donors. Al, who is a 22-year cancer survivor himself, said, “We’ve put the night together, but in the end it’s all about you.”
The theme for the evening was “Everyday Heroes,” and as Kari May explained, “The real heroes, which I hope they all understand, are the donors. Their role is really, really important and without their support, the camp wouldn’t exist.”
At the end of the night, after all of the live auction items were gone (including a surprise donation for a 20-person dinner at Zou 75, which sold for $22,000), auctioneer and 11-year volunteer Larry Flynn asked, “Ok, who would like to donate $25,000 dollars…?” And the response was overwhelming. He went all the way down to $100 donations and, by the end, almost every single paddle had been raised.
As “Dr. Dave” (Dave McClusky), founder of Camp Rainbow Gold said, "A couple of years ago, three bright-eyed beautiful girls asked me if I knew why the camp was named after a rainbow. Together, they told me that rainbows are just like hopes and dreams. You can never touch them, but you know they are there. You can't hold one, but you believe in it. You can't say they don't happen, because you witness it."
And, as Kris pointed out, the donors at the Share Your Heart Ball are the true heroes of hope.