Cotton, grapes and peaches grow well in the Valley. A few of the farmers who successfully produce these crops tried sowing seeds of a different sort back in 1997. Since then the motivated growers have helped reap several million dollars to benefit Children’s Hospital Central California.
“We talked about having a signature event in the fall,” said Linda Smittcamp, longtime La Feliz Guild member whose family owns Wawona Frozen Foods. “We wanted it to have something to do with agriculture because it’s one of the largest commodities in our Valley, and the timing was perfect for calling it a harvest ball.”
Linda and her husband, Bill Smittcamp, will host the 15th annual Harvest Ball at the Wawona Ranch on Sept. 30. “It’s quite the party and people really enjoy the evening,” said Linda. “A September party brings people back together again after the summer and it’s just one of those fun ways to connect.”
The Smittcamps together with Bruce Allbright of Allbright Cotton and Greg and Jessica Coleman of E. & J. Gallo Winery held the first Harvest Ball at the Earl Smittcamp Ranch to raise both funds and awareness for Children's Hospital. “Somewhere around 250 to 300 people attended the first one,” said Linda. “It was a backyard party, but an extremely elegant, dressy affair. Everybody really had a good time.”
The annual black tie gala grew from a simple wine-tasting and dinner to a complex occasion featuring both silent and live auctions of wine, vacation packages, jewelry and more. “It slowly progressed into a bigger and better event,” said Linda. “We almost said we can’t do this anymore, but we knew we couldn’t give it up. It’s too big of a help to the Hospital.”
The Foundation at Children's Hospital Central California quickly stepped in and, with assistance from community volunteers, began organizing the logistics and carrying out the busywork of sponsoring a large-scale fundraising event.
“I used to volunteer on the Harvest Ball committee before I started working at the Foundation,” said Peggy Dunlap, coordinator of The Campaign for Children’s. She mentioned aspects of the Harvest Ball that have become a tradition. “Warren Armstrong from Channel 30 has been the emcee since the beginning, and Jim Pardini does the catering.” Each year attendees have the opportunity to hear about the good work performed by the Hospital’s specialized medical staff as told through a patient story. “And people love the auction,” she said of what has been called the most attractive charity auction in the Valley.
Bruce Allbright, Greg and Jessica Coleman, and Bill and Linda Smittcamp understand what grows well in the Valley – not just cotton, grapes and peaches, but also thousands of Valley children who grow well after receiving incredible care from the amazing people at Children's Hospital Central California. These successful growers founded the Harvest Ball 15 years ago to gather in bountiful support from other thriving businesses and community members in our Valley. The idea has taken root and become a valued tradition.
For tickets to the Harvest Ball or to donate auction items, please contact Sarah Schmidt, development coordinator for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, at (559) 353-8619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unable to attend, we invite you to visit the Foundation’s website for the Fund-An-Item list, which details several of the Hospital’s ongoing needs, and a secure link to donate online.