A downtown Jackson soiree's centerpiece Saturday was raising funds to improve the health care of Mississippi's children while saluting where they call home.
Proceeds from BankPlus' Enchanted Evening, held at the Arts Center of Mississippi, went to Friends of Children's Hospital. The annual event, which has a summery all-white dress code, drew guests to hear live music from the Jackson State University Chorale and the Capitol City Stage Band, enjoy such delicacies as Doe's Eat Place tamales and Redfish Anna from Walker's, and bid on art, luxury items and a football signed by New York Giant and Children's of Mississippi supporter Eli Manning at a select silent auction.
“I'm really excited about tonight,” Friends of Children's Hospital board chair Sara Ray said. “It's the largest fundraiser we host, and the best part is, it's a celebration of Mississippi, too.”
Themed “All Roads Lead to Batson,” the night at the Arts Center of Mississippi showcased the different regions of the state with décor, from oyster shell trees to cotton boll garland, and cuisine, which included Mississippi State University cheese, barbecue, Sanderson Farms chicken and Simmons farm-raised catfish as well as shrimp, oysters and seafood chowder.
David Spurk, a Friends board member, owner of Petal Pushers of Madison and decorator for the annual fundraiser since the late 1990s, said this year's theme “shows how Children's of Mississippi reaches out to all areas of the state with Batson Children's Hospital as well as satellite clinics.”
David Spurk, left, smiles with Dr. Susan Buttross, UMMC professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Center for the Advancement of Youth, and her husband, Robert Riddell.
The amount of funds raised this year was not yet available, but in past years, Enchanted Evening raised an average of $250,000 to $300,000, said Tena McKenzie, Friends of Children's Hospital executive director.
The event was held just weeks after Friends of Children's Hospital pledged $20 million toward the $100 million Children's of Mississippi capital campaign.
Children's of Mississippi is the umbrella organization that includes Batson Children's Hospital and all UMMC pediatric care, including clinics offering specialty care around the state.
The funds raised in the campaign will help the Medical Center expand and update its space dedicated for pediatric care including an expanded and renovated neonatal intensive care unit, more rooms for the pediatric intensive care unit, more operating rooms and the creation of an imaging clinic especially for pediatric patients. A new pediatric clinic will make care for outpatients more convenient and comfortable for families. Expansion of the Children's Heart Center is also on the drawing board.
Setting the Mississippi mood of BankPlus' Enchanted Evening was the Jackson State University Chorale, under the direction of Loretta Galbreath.
Batson Children's Hospital is the only hospital dedicated exclusively to the needs of children in Mississippi.
Just as the state loves the cause, Mississippians also love this fundraiser, said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children's of Mississippi.
“This is an event that the community looks forward to each year,” he said. “It's a celebration of all the work for Batson Children's Hospital and Children's of Mississippi.”
“This,” said Dr. Rick Barr, “is one of the ways Friends of Children's Hospital's work for children is emphasized, and we at Batson Children's Hospital and Children's of Mississippi are grateful for their support.”