story and photos by April Robertson
Supporting medical patients in Northwest Arkansas was celebrated with drinks and dinner outdoors, live music, wearing bright colors and dancing in hula hoops.
The 22nd Annual Hospice Summer Garden Party took place at the residence of Julie and Greg Oakhill Saturday evening (June 22) in Fayetteville.
“There are 600 people here tonight, which is about average,” said Amy Linimon, director of special events at the Washington Regional Foundation. “We normally have 500-700 each year.”
Guests enjoyed island-inspired cuisine, paired with plenty of pineapple, a dance floor where hula hoops were provided (and encouraged), live Calypso music by Kansas City's Lazell Williams and the St. Paradise Band and a say-cheese-photo-booth for candid shots.
Proceeds went to “terminally ill patients in Northwest Arkansas through emotional, medical, social, spiritual and volunteer care, as well as bereavement support for their loved ones,” according to the Caribbean Nights program.
Tickets were $75 individually, but this year, the bulk of the donations came through a live auction emceed by Richard Clifton and Woody of KIX 104, as well as a guest emcee appearance by Razorback football coach Bret Bielema.
Items included week-long condo stays for families, sponsored parties large enough for corporate gatherings and a group barbeque dinner with three Arkansas Razorback coaches: Coach Dave Van Horn, Coach Bret Bielema, Coach Mike Anderson and their wives.
Bielema auctioned off the item himself, joking with the crowd that when he accepted the job as Razorback coach, he took it in mind that he would be a part-time auctioneer.
“This dinner is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” Bielema said. “You know, this is a good deal. I’ve been trying to have dinner with these guys for six months.”
After beginning the bids at $5,000, he qualified the slow but steady rise of bids.
“I’ve only had one cocktail,” he said. “I’m a better auctioneer after I’ve had two.”
Soon after, the item grew to include a cocktail at the Bielema’s residence before the barbeque and a bottle of wine to boot. Two benefactors went head to head, navigating the item from $8,000 to $8,500, $9,000 and ending with the highest bid at $10,000.
Generously, as the bids came to a close, Bielema announced, “Tell you what, let’s do it twice.” The crowd cheered, some gave a standing applause for the gift which doubled the premier item, sending the total of the live auction items well over $20,000. Of the two lucky auction winners who landed the Razorback coach barbeque, one was the Pat Walker Foundation and the other preferred to be known as an anonymous philanthropic donor. The latter of the two was prepared to pay $25,000 for the item.
Among the most unique silent auction items were a “Princess Party with Ms. University of Arkansas” at Rick’s Bakery (complete with crumpets), a Bread of the Month club from Stone Mill, a holiday party for 175 at Theatre Squared and an Oaklawn experience that included six box seats to two races, breakfast at Backside Grill, a tour of the barn of “Red Dog” Hartlage and a behind-the-scenes Q&A with the trainer.