Hospitals can heal by pulling a community together

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comFebruary 4, 2014 

Dr. Luke Baxley and his wife, Geneva, are shown decorating for the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation Valentine Ball that will be held this Saturday in Beaufort.

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— Hospitals may have healing powers that not even a doctor could prescribe.

In Beaufort County, they can bring out the best in people.

On Hilton Head Island, there was a hospital auxiliary before the hospital opened in 1975. Volunteers raised money to buy equipment, and even keep the lights on. The Dr. Alligator Open golf tournament, the Hospital Ball and the Hospital Bazaar pulled people together for a common cause in a growing community.

On Saturday, the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation will host its 25th Valentine Ball. It raises money for the not-for-profit hospital that opened with 25 beds in 1944 on donated land overlooking the Beaufort River.

Jim and Weezie Gibson chaired the first ball in 1990 and they're co-chairing the silver anniversary edition with Dr. Aaron and Melissa Bliley.

The event has raised $4 million over the years and become one of the major social events in town.

Weezie said the original idea was to have a formal fundraising ball. They hoped from the beginning it would be big, but there was one major doubt. The women planning it were worried none of the men in town would get dressed up for a black-tie event.

You may recall that the men about town, and those down the river, had carefully groomed their reputation for the "Beaufort Tuxedo": a navy blazer, blue oxford shirt, khakis, deck shoes and no socks.

"We decided we'd all host a dinner party and invite friends, and then we'd all go to the ball," Weezie said. "It was a shot in the dark."

It worked better than "Duck Dynasty."

The first ball was held at the Officers' Club on Parris Island. As many guests as the fire marshal would allow -- about 300 -- walked through the tunnel of red and white balloons to enter the ball.

That has evolved into about 50 dinner parties all over town before 600 people report at 9 p.m. Saturday to the vacant second floor of the new Beaufort Medical and Administrative Center. At the ball will be desserts, dancing and a silent auction.

Most people let the committee assign them to the dinner parties, so people get to meet new people.

"Everyone tries to get more wonderful every year," Weezie said. "The dinners are usually very elaborate."

Photographs from the ball through its first quarter-century will be a big part of the silver-black-and-white decor this year.

Geneva Baxley, a nurse expecting her first baby, is in charge of decorations. She has engaged her husband, Dr. Luke Baxley of the newly expanded emergency room, to make a chandelier for the occasion.

Weezie thinks of her own two grandchildren born at Beaufort Memorial, and smiles when watching the Baxleys climb a ladder with the hand-made chandelier. They symbolize time flowing like the river down by the hospital, which has touched so many lives.

When the last ham biscuits are served around midnight, the ball that was a "shot in the dark" will have raised more than $300,000 to help expand the intensive care unit from eight beds to 12.

Just what the doctor ordered.

Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2014/02/04/2929280/hospitals-can-heal-by-pulling.html#storylink=cpy

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