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Masked attendees celebrate fun, fundraising at Gala
Annual event, auction raises funds for Childrens Center
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Bruce and Mary Anna Edenfield place silent auction signup sheets Saturday next to the corresponding items at the Children’s Center Gala for Hope & Healing at the Robson Event Center in Gainesville. More than 100 items were available in the silent auction for attendees to bid on. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Masked attendees of the Children’s Center for Hope & Healing’s eighth annual Gala buzzed about the Robson Event Center Saturday dancing to the music of Back in Time Band, dining courtesy of Avocados and refilling glasses of wine at the open bar.

Gala attendees were treated to an evening of fun, entertainment, but most importantly, fundraising.

“There’s a lot of excitement here tonight, and I think all the people enjoy being here,” Bruce Edenfield said.

Edenfield, president of the organization’s board of directors, was happy to see the crowd having fun, but is even happier to see their donations.

“Without their support, this organization doesn’t exist,” he said.

The gala raises money for The Children’s Center to fulfill their mission of breaking the cycle of child sexual abuse and exploitation through raffles and a silent auction.

This year’s raffle featured three prizes worth over $250. More than 110 items donated by local businesses were up for bid, keeping attendees occupied throughout the night.

Don Ansley, member of the board of directors, said he had his eyes on the golf packages. His wife, Trish Ansley said she had a vacation in mind.

“I’m bidding on the week at Hilton Head and all the pampering, all of the spa days,” she said.

There were also tickets to The Atlanta Opera, day-passes to Dollywood, Atlanta Braves tickets, wines, jewelry and restaurant gift cards up for auction.

Among the guests were The Children’s Center’s therapists, such as Sheena Young, who said she looks forward to the benefits the gala will have on their services.

“(Child sexual abuse) is a topic that affects a lot of families,” Young said. “But people are just uncomfortable talking about it, so events like this are a setting where people can still feel like they’re helping without it being uncomfortable for them.”

The Center serves 13 counties and has served over 2,017 victims in the past year. Executive director Sam Shoemaker said there’s still more to do.

“I hope that more people will be willing to contribute,” he said. “It’s an expensive thing to run four offices and have licensed and trained therapists. And the beautiful thing about it is there are no fees for our services. We get our funding from the United Way, and several other grants, so there’s no charge for anybody.”

Shoemaker said this year’s goal is to beat last year’s numbers and raise over $20,500.

Cindy Wilson, director of development, agreed.

“That’s the goal,” she said. “For the guests to enjoy themselves, learn about the organization, learn about our mission and raise funds so we can continue to help these children that need our services so desperately.”

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