On Feb. 14, a Saturday, Ballantyne Resort and Lodge will host the inaugural Ballantyne Ball – the first-of-its-kind charitable gala developed with the giving heart of the south Charlotte community in mind.
The concept for the inaugural ball, which is masquerade themed, began in October 2013. Ballantyne Ball founder and chair Allen Starrett, an attorney and Ballantyne resident with an entrepreneurial heart, began brainstorming about ways the Ballantyne community could make a difference in the greater Charlotte area.
“This idea of a masquerade ball for charity came up,” Starrett said. “We wanted to think of ways to make an impact in Ballantyne in a way that doesn’t currently exist.”
As chair of the Ballantyne Chapter of the Charlotte Chamber, chair of Ballantyne Festival and co-founder of Ballantyne Briefings and Ballantyne Brews, Starrett was confident he could generate enough interest to make the Ballantyne Ball charity fundraiser a reality.
Within a few months, Starrett established a board of six directors, all joining to help the gala come to fruition.
“We all know one another, and everyone was very positive and responsive to the idea,” he said. “We decided to proceed with building Ballantyne Ball as a Ballantyne-based charity fundraiser … Now, we have an established charity with huge ambitions, and there’s been a lot of increasing excitement now that the event is upon us to realize the vision and our dream.”
Net proceeds from the Ballantyne Ball’s inaugural gala will be donated to the Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF) in hopes of bringing new treatment options to Levine Children’s Hospital of Charlotte.
The south Charlotte-based nonprofit was founded in 2009 by Erin and Stuart Santos, two years after their daughter, Isabella, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 2 years old.
Neuroblastoma is a rare pediatric cancer with a survival rate of just 40 percent. Isabella died on June 28, 2012, after a brave fight, but her legacy lives on through the Isabella Santos Foundation, which has raised more than $700,000 for neuroblastoma research in the last five years.
“The Ballantyne community sometimes gets a bad rap I think,” said Corey Sunstrom, director and marketing committee chair of the Ballantyne Ball. “But the Ballantyne Community is truly a very giving community. That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to support the ball as something based out of our community to become a conduit to support these orphan types of cancer. There isn’t a lot of publicity or acknowledgement around neuroblastoma, and this is a tremendous opportunity to get the community involved.”
During Isabella’s fight with cancer, she and her parents relocated to New York City for specialized treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for 18 months. After Isabella relapsed, she was moved to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia because Levine Children’s Hospital of Charlotte didn’t have the facilities and equipment needed to treat patients with neuroblastoma.
The goal of the Ballantyne Ball is to make those treatment options available at Levine so families don’t have to relocate to receive proper care and treatment.
It’s a lofty goal, he said, but one Starrett and the Ballantyne Board of Directors feel is well within reach.
“We want to make a splash,” he said. “Our preliminary dialogue was all about figuring out what would be most meaningful to the ISF. How do we define success for Ballantyne Ball? We determined our goal would be to bring innovative treatment options and new research options to Charlotte.”
From the conversation emerged the idea of a specific neuroblastoma treatment room to be developed at Levine, and net proceeds from the Ball will work to fund the treatment room. If successful, families in North Carolina and surrounding states will no longer have to travel to New York, Philadelphia or Atlanta to receive neuroblastoma treatment.
“We really have this overall goal that we want to create new, innovative options at Levine,” Starrett said. “Specifically, our hope is to raise enough funds to help Levine install a new type of treatment room.”
So far, the fundraising effort has highlighted the giving heart of the south Charlotte community. Met Life will present the Ball, in conjunction with Diamond’s Direct, Red Ventures and a variety of supporting sponsors.
Joe Moody, director and sponsorship committee chair, said generating interest in sponsorship and support of the Ball has been a rewarding effort.
“What we were trying to do was find businesses out there that may have a big population in regards to the number of employees, or businesses that may only have two or three employees,” he said. “Our focus was to get the Ballantyne community involved, whether it was residents or businesses. The process has been awesome, and the support has been unbelievable. It’s been a lot of grassroots fundraising and getting out there and opening doors.”
“The Ball is an effort to bring the community together for an evening of benevolence,” Starrett added. “We all want to join forces to get behind the fight against pediatric cancer, and it’s been very well received.”
Ticket sales to the event have gone extremely well so far, Starrett said. The board of directors hopes the event will sell out, and with the Ball less than four weeks away, they are fewer than 50 tickets away from doing so.
Sunstrom added though charitable galas are popular within the greater Charlotte area, the Ballantyne Ball will be the first of its kind and the evening will be filled with unique and unexpected surprises. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. followed by dinner and dancing.
“We’ve all been to our fair share of charitable galas,” Sunstrom said. “We wanted this to be something special and something that’s different from anything we’ve ever been to. It’s a cause near and dear to us … Those attending can expect a very elegant, fun evening with a lot of surprises mixed in. It’s definitely unlike any other gala. This is something that hasn’t been done before, and we are extremely excited.”
Find more information on the Ballantyne Ball and purchase tickets at www.ballantyneball.org. Visit www.isabellasantosfoundation.com for more information on the Isabella Santos Foundation.