Blackout and blues for ball
Any Santa Barbaran can tell you: The annual Black and Blue Ball is a highlight on the fundraising circuit, a sellout soirée where everybody who’s anybody makes an appearance.
And it’s been called off.
The gala serves as the major fundraiser for the local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which had to cancel the popular summer event due in part to the 40 percent drop in donations its has received at other events this year.
The event usually nets about $100,000 for the organization, but MDA district director Courtney Wick said the organization felt that “having a social event of this caliber would be a risk” at this time.
Wick said many supporters of the event are disappointed, but they understand the necessity of the cancelation.
“A lot of people still wanted to support the event, but they couldn’t do it at the capacity that they had in years past, so everything would have been run on a smaller scale,” Wick said. “And if we scale down the Black and Blue Ball, it just wouldn’t be the same.”
General admission tickets sold for $135 and VIP tickets cost $175. Last year’s event had 1,000 guests.
The decision to cut the July 19 ball was handed down from the national MDA organization, Wick said.
“The national vice president was here, and he told us that our programs across the board were hurting,” Wick said. “The decision was strictly business, based on the economy. I know it’s really well-received in Santa Barbara, but we have to look at our bottom line.”
Organizers hope to be able to add the Black and Blue Ball to the 2010 event schedule, but won’t get a final decision until the end of the year.
“We’re hoping the community rallies around event so next year we can bring it back,” Wick said. “The economy might be a little bit better, and then we can come back bigger and better than ever.”
The MDA will continue to raise money through its other events, like the “fill the boot” campaign and the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.
“We’ve been juggling a lot of events, so we’re just going to focus on the ones that have been working for us – asking more people for less money at one time.” Wick said. “I know that across the board people are having to try a lot harder just to get the same amount that they earned before.”
She’s right. MDA isn’t the only tri-county nonprofit scaling down operations.
Peggi Preston, the regional director for Special Olympics Ventura County, was informed by Special Olympics Southern California that there would be major changes to the entire Southern California sports schedule.
“All winter sports were dropped … due to an overall decline in athlete participation throughout Southern California,” Preston said. “While we acknowledge that these sports were very important to those athletes who participated, it was a numbers crunch with the costs not being able to justify the means.”
Officials at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo are having a similar problem. They’re expecting a 20 percent annual increase in the shelter’s adoption, relinquishment and spay/neuter programs, which means they need donations to help meet the needs of the county’s animals.
“While 2009 may be a bit more difficult financially than usual, we remain very enthusiastic about the work we do,” wrote Helen Meyers, Woods Humane Society’s board president.
Woods Humane Society is mainly funded through donations. It costs the shelter an average of $600 to house and care for each animal per year.