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Sunflowers Gala reaps $61,000 for people with disabilities, delays
biz slt gala-results
Ty Swarts of Shawnee seems to be saying look ma, no hands as he rides a tandem bike at Sunflower Diversified Services recent Charity Gala. J.T. Massieon of Wamego brings up the rear. The bike was a live auction item at the event that raised $61,000 for people with developmental delays and disabilities. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

    Children and adults with developmental delays and disabilities are the beneficiaries of the community’s generosity and compassion once again, said Connie Oetken, director of development at Sunflower Diversified Services.

          Sunflower’s 10thannual Charity Gala raised $61,000, which will help infants, toddlers and adults who participate in the many programs provided by the non-profit agency.

          “We have learned over the years that central Kansans care about the people we serve, as well as their families,” Oetken said. “But we are always overwhelmed by how far people will go to make life a little easier for their neighbors.

          “And we are not talking just about the money,” Oetken continued. “Dozens and dozens of people share their time and talent for the Gala, which is our biggest fundraiser of the year.”

          For example, she noted, Auctioneer Mike Niedens and Emcee Scott Donovan “were instrumental in keeping the crowd entertained, while also offering information about our many services.”

          In addition, Jane Isern and Gail Carpenter managed the golf and basketball arcade at the Gala, Oetken added.

          “These are just a few examples of local residents who understand how important it is to support people who need a helping hand,” Oetken commented. “And they realize that every penny we raise benefits people in our local communities.

          “The Gala and our other fundraisers are especially important now because of dramatic cuts in local and state funding,” Oetken added. “The money we raise helps fill some of the gaps when public money and private insurance won’t cover medical and dental care, and adaptive equipment.”

          She also noted that 158 people attended the Gala; 61 of those were new to the event.

          Sunflower Executive Director Jim Johnson noted that the total raised included $8,000 designated for Sunflower’s Invest in Kids Club. This group supports infants and toddlers at the agency’s Early Education Center and Incredible Years Preschool.

          “I simply cannot tell you how grateful we are to everyone who had anything to do with the Gala,” Johnson said. “The total is overwhelming, and we are gratified that some donors earmarked their contributions for Invest in Kids.

          “Children’s programs have been especially hard-hit by government cutbacks,” Johnson explained. “Our Invest in Kids fundraising goal this year is $65,000 and we are already at $10,000. Local and area residents truly care about children with disabilities, and we trust they will help us keep the momentum going.”

          Sunflower’s service area includes Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. All donations stay in this area.