The Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be holding their 3rd annual Evergreen Ball fundraiser in January to raise funds for the national park.
Friends President, Jim Hart, said that the first Evergreen Ball raised around $160,000 and last year’s event finished up with around $200,000.
According to Friends staffer Holly Burcham, “this year’s event has more than doubled in sponsorship.”
“We’re optimistic that these numbers will increase significantly,” beyond the $200,000 raised last year, said Hart.
According to park spokesperson, Nancy Gray, in 2005 alone, the Friends of the Smokies has provided over $1.5 million in support to the park.
“Funding that the Friends provides to the Park goes towards much needed projects and programs that would otherwise go unfunded,” said Gray. “Through this additional money, park managers are able to strengthen their financial means and capitalize on opportunities towards improving park facilities, protecting the resources, expanding educational programs, supporting science activities and promoting valuable research.”
The non-profit organization was formed in 1933 with a mission to raise funds and public awareness, and to provide volunteers for Smokies projects.
Since its inception, the Friends of the Smokies have managed to raise “over $12 million through individual, corporate and foundation contributions, merchandise sales, special events, and sales of specialty license plates in Tennessee and North Carolina,” according to the group’s website.
According to Hart, donations made to the Friends group can be designated to specific park projects such as efforts to combat the hemlock woolly adelgid infestation, trail upkeep, historic building restorations, or educational services. Unspecified donations will be applied to the various items on the park’s needs list.
The Friends group provided $285,000 in donations for the construction of the park’s first made-to-order science laboratory which will be called the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center which began construction this month.
Also, in September, the group was given 4 gas/electric hybrid vehicles from Toyota, which they promptly turned over to the national park.
Planned for this year’s Evergreen Ball is dinner and dancing, mixing and mingling, as well as both a silent and live auction.
The featured live auction item is a lot within the prestigious development, the Estates at Norton Creek. The winner of this item will be reminded where their money went every time they catch a glimpse out the window of their Norton Creek home. The Estates sit atop a ridge at the southern edge of the national park, directly facing one of the Smokies most spectacular features, Mount LeConte.
Other auction items include an original oil painting of The Chimneys, by Knoxville artist Ron Williams; a trip for four to the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors with private jet transportation and lodging; and a room makeover complete by design expert Sam George.
Also up for auction are vacation packages, a pinball machine, catered dinners and a $10,000 shopping spree at M.S. McClellan.
The event will be held at the Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville on January 21, beginning with cocktails and the silent auction at 6 p.m. The event is a black tie affair.
While the Ball is already sold out as it has all three years, tickets for the event cost $175 per person.