40 years ago, the first Snow Ball event was held. The volunteers and donors just didn’t know it at the time.
This year’s Snow Ball will be a stark departure from the first event in 1974 that was instigated by John Phillips and John Fogarty and at the time was called the St. Martin of Tours Gala. The event began as a $25 per couple potluck with friends and family, each bringing covered dishes to the
former Glenwood Manor Hotel in Overland Park.
During the first four years the St. Martin of Tours Gala raised more than $50,000, and by 1981, when the event moved to the former Alameda Plaza Hotel, it was well known and sold out by mid-December. The proceeds raised began to almost double each year after that. The mission of the affair, however, had remained crystal clear to all those involved: to raise funds to support our brothers and sisters who are in times of need.
Inevitably each year, snow would fall around the time of the gala, sometimes on the evening of the affair. Because of the fluctuating weather changes in the Midwest, it took only a few years for it to be nicknamed Snow Ball by Phillips, one of the founders. The nickname stuck and finally after several years, it was officially given the name of Snow Ball.
This year the fundraising goal is $2 Million — a record breaking goal for a very special anniversary celebration. “The amount of assistance this year’s Snow Ball has the potential to raise is just incredible,” says Jan Lewis, outgoing CEO. “We have seen more and more families coming to our Emergency Assistance Centers; this revenue will help us support even more of those families who are struggling right now.”
Over the past 40 years, the event has come to represent more than just the event but also the tremendous success as a fundraising channel which has literally snowballed year after year. Besides working as a fundraiser, the event also serves to foster fellowship among the hundreds of volunteers who ensure its success and the thousands who partake in the festivities.
“Besides being a big party, perhaps the biggest in the town, it is a chance for community members to experience the friendship and fun of seeing friends and family who we might only see once a year,” Jeanne Haake, Snow Ball President with her husband, Charlie, said. “We also have the common goal of helping others in need.”
By 1988, the event took another turn by seeking additional monetary gifts in addition to underwriting the cost of producing the ball. Organizers desired to have funds generated by Snow Ball ticket sales to cover the cost of the event, and added an additional giving opportunity, a Patron Gift, that would be a 100 percent tax deductible gift. In following years, efforts focused on introducing the event to the younger generation.
As the guest list grew, Snow Ball moved again to the Hyatt Regency, now the Sheraton Crown Center. The new location brought an even more elegant style to the festivities including valet parking, a cocktail reception, and at one time a Sunday Mass the morning after the Ball for those who stayed overnight at the hotel. The net income exceeded $104,000 the first year held at the Hyatt and by 1994, the cumulative total for the first 20 years reached just over one
Now with nearly 2,000 patrons attending, the event is held at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center Exhibition Hall. According to Julie Clarkson, long time attendee, the event has exceeded one generation and has become a multi-generational event with two-, three-, and sometimes even four-generations that celebrate together the joy of giving.
Since its founding, Snow Ball has accumulated $21,159,898 in support of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas and delivered on its overall goal to serve and help those in need within the community. Over the years, proceeds from Snow Ball have aided thousands of people from all faiths and cultures.
“Catholic Charities provides resources for so many people in need and people need to be active in recognizing this mission,” Haake said. “The need is so great and our job is to get that concept out to the public.”