Seven years ago, a group of determined women decided to participate as a fundraising team in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Running under the name of the Jane Gang, the group was eager to raise money for the prestigious Kansas City event and to donate the proceeds to the cause of curing breast cancer. But how?
It wasn't until a Jane Gang friend revealed she was holding a “Bunco for Boobies” fundraiser to secure funds for the Susan G. Komen Race that three members the Gang of 40 walkers decided to hold a fundraiser of its own, even though they weren't experienced fundraisers.
“We really had no idea what we were doing, but we thought we would find out and make it up as we went along,” says club member Cindy Devine, noting the Jane Gang is now known as “Girls Nite Out 4 Breast Cancer” (GNO-4-BC). The club changed its name to encompass its fundraising efforts.
Noting the club started with nine passionate and enthusiastic women desirous of raising money and awareness of cancer, Club President Cindy Devine says, “We planned the heck out of (our first gala.) We thought we had every detail covered. But what we didn't count on was the worst snowstorm we had ever seen in Kansas City.”
Although the weather outside the Blue Springs Country Club was terrible, “inside the country club were fresh flowers, decorative balloons, food, entertainment and a bunch of crazy ladies,” she recalls, noting that of the 120 people who signed up and gave their money to attend the fundraiser, 80 showed up. “Our goal was to make $500 (profit), but we made $1,500 and an additional $200 for Cancer Action. We have since decided we want Cancer Action to be our main focus.”
The theme of this year's gala on Saturday, April 30, is “Beach Party Luau 2016, featuring an authentic luau dinner prepared by the family of Aileen Vaka, originally from the island of Tonga, and a GNO-4-BC member. The entree is roast hog, prepared professionally in an underground pit.
“We are going authentic the whole nine yards,” Aileen says, noting all the food will be prepared at her house and taken to the Cotillion at 1717-1721 Burdette Crossing in Blue Springs and served promptly at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and available at the door.
Though the delicious food is worth the price of admission, there's lots more fun and entertainment going on throughout the evening to make the Cancer Action fundraiser a night to remember. For instance, “We have 80 raffle items valued at more than $5,000,” says GNO-4-BC member Marilyn Ashley. Among the items are three guitars, two ukuleles, several one-night hotel stays and many items bundled together in beautiful baskets worth hundreds of dollars.
Professional singers Jeff and Alayna Drydale and professional Polynesian dancers Kevin Braden and Dee Boyer will perform throughout the evening. There also will be some line dances, bingo games, door-prize gifts and more. In addition, “We are going to have some vendors selling their wares,” says Marilyn, including a “massage lady” and a lady that sells knitted boot tops. Makeup, jewelry, candles and more will be available for purchase.
Says Aileen: “When you come to the event, everyone is a winner. People leave with some kind of an item, you know: raffle items, door prizes and grab bags. People are so excited about winning something. People come excited and leave excited.”
All members agree the “Girls Nite Out” gala would not be what it is today if it weren't for donations. “We have a lot of people who help us with donations. Aileen's family will prepare the food, and everyone that helps does it for free. Our singers and dancers do it for free. So everything is donated,” Cindy says, adding: “The majority of the funds we make, we donate to Cancer Action. We only keep enough in our checking account just to cover the bare necessities.”
What's amazing about GNO-4-BC is that since its conception in 2009, the fundraising organization has raised more than $26,000 for charity without an advertising budget, corporate sponsors, fancy offices, paid staff or a celebrity spokesperson. What's also amazing, GNO- 4-BC members will tell you, is that it consists solely of nine hard-working women dedicated to rallying their family, friends and loyal strangers to work hard helping them raise money and awareness for cancer.
In GNO-4-BC, there's a lot of love. Marilyn Ashley will tell you its members are “the best ladies there ever were. We love each other. We care about each other, and when someone needs help, we are there for them. Liz Barber echoes the sentiments. She says whenever there's a chance to get together, they do. “We love each other's company. We really do. We try to reach out to each other. If we find someone has cancer, we do try to reach out to them and see if there is anything we can do for them.”
Before becoming the last member to join GNO-4-BC, Debbie Lityma observed the club as an outsider, witnessing all the good things they were doing. “They were just so excited and so happy,” she says , “and I thought to myself, 'Oh, I've got to be a part of this.' So I went up and said, 'I want to join your group.' I just knew I had to belong to this group,” whose membership also includes Donna Kennedy, JoAnne White, Debbie Haze and Jann Faltermeier.
Says Marilyn: “(Fundraising) is our mission and we work tirelessly throughout the year on this event. We start in January and we work until the event. We absolutely love it. ...It's a good evening out.”
For more information, call Cindy Devine at 816-214-5003 or Marilyn Ashley at 816-254-2914.
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.