Formal dress is optional, and you won’t have to worry about traffic or parking, as the Franciscan Health Foundations of Northern Indiana and South Suburban Chicago invite the public to participate in the “Make History and Make A Difference Virtual Gala.”

The virtual fundraiser will broadcast from The Field Museum in Chicago on Thursday, Dec. 9. The pre-show begins at 6:30PM and the 45-minute broadcast follows at 7PM. You can watch from your computer, tablet or mobile device.

“We have an exciting evening planned for this year’s Virtual Gala, which will allow us to reach a much broader audience than an in-person event as everyone can watch for free. The Foundation’s Virtual Gala will feature an auction with a variety of excellent items, raffle prizes for all who view the program, interactive entertainment and trivia, and holiday music by the Crown Point High School choir,” said Franciscan Health Foundation Executive Director Rick Peltier.

Among the items collected for the auction are restaurant packages, wine tastings, gifts from local breweries and distilleries, Bulls and Blackhawks tickets, golf packages, autographed sports memorabilia, a boat ride on Lake Michigan and more. The premier auction items will be revealed and featured during the show.

To register for the Franciscan Health Foundation Virtual Gala and auction, go online at Peltier stresses that all proceeds benefit the Foundation’s Community Health and Wellness Fund. “We hope you will learn more about our fund and choose to make a donation to help us ‘Make A Difference’ for those who will greatly benefit from your generosity,” he added.

Communities in the Northwest Indiana and South Suburban Chicago region will benefit from the proceeds of the Gala. The Foundation’s Community Health and Wellness Fund assists vulnerable populations by addressing issues with economic stability, quality education and healthcare access.

One example is food insecurity, which impacts 1 in 5 children in the Region. Donations to the Community Health and Wellness Fund have provided healthy food boxes for families using the Franciscan Health Prenatal Assistance Program and the Dr. John Lanman Clinic. Food boxes are also distributed to those in need through the City of Hammond School System and the McKinney-Vento program for homeless families. Mobile Food Markets are available every month in the Franciscan Health Hammond hospital parking lot and serve an average of 135 families.

Another area the fund supports is Franciscan Health’s efforts to target diaper insecurity. Nearly one in three families struggle to afford diapers, which can cost $70 to $80 a month. Babies who remain in soiled diapers too long are exposed to potential health risks. The Foundation’s annual diaper drive aims to relieve families of this added stress and has led to the establishment of the Region’s only National Diaper Bank Network site at Franciscan Health Hammond.

The safety of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic was front of mind with the decision to make this year’s Gala a virtual event, but the hope is that by expanding access to a wider audience, the Franciscan Health Foundation will also widen its net of donations and, in turn, assist the most vulnerable members of our community.

Next year’s Gala is scheduled to be held in-person at the Field Museum on Oct. 29, 2022