Emerald Ball tickets on sale

Emerald Ball

Event will raise awareness, funds to fight Parkinson's disease;
FHSU's Herndon Clinic gets award for serving Parkinson's patients


By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing

HAYS, Kan. -- An indoor training facility at Fort Hays State University will be transformed in November to provide the setting for a formal ball that will raise awareness and funds to fight Parkinson's disease.

Associated with the special event, FHSU's Herndon Clinic will be honored as the winner of the Orville "Bud" Eaton Award for Excellence, which is presented to businesses or organizations that excel in their service to the Parkinson's community. The Herndon Clinic provides voice therapy and alternative services to Parkinson's patients.

The inaugural Emerald Ball is set for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the Schmidt-Bickle Indoor Training Facility on the FHSU campus. FHSU faculty, staff and students, and Parkinson's patients and their families, can receive a discounted admission price of $50 if tickets are purchased before Oct. 25. Regular tickets are $75 per person and must be purchased in advance via the event's website at www.myemerald.org ; tickets will not be sold at the door.

"We do quite a bit of work with Parkinson's patients through our Herndon Clinic. It does phenomenal work in speech pathology, critical to Parkinson's patients," said Dr. Mirta M. Martin, FHSU president. "So bringing attention to their distinctive work, to the caring love of the professionals who daily help others, to our beautiful campus ... well, that only supports our journey to be the destination of choice for Kansas and our nation's bright minds."

According to J. Basil Dannebohm, chairman of the Emerald Foundation, tickets have been sold to individuals from across Kansas and nine other states.

Martin is vice-chair of the Emerald Foundation. Her mother-in-law died of Parkinson's, and she has other relatives who suffer from the chronic and progressive movement disorder of the central nervous system.

"What is most concerning is how little is known about this disease," Martin said, "and individuals believe that Parkinson's is a disease that plagues only the elderly. It plagues every age."

One of those is the 34-year-old Dannebohm, who was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson's disease just three days after his 30th birthday.

Since then, Dannebohm has learned what medications to take in order to live with Parkinson's. Complications from the disease forced Dannebohm to retire from his seat in the Kansas House of Representatives, but that hasn't stopped his determination to raise awareness and to help others who deal with the same symptoms day in and day out.

He formed the foundation with "Emerald" in the name as a takeoff from the "Wizard of Oz."

"Dorothy had a difficult journey to try to get back home to Kansas, but she was determined to get there," Dannebohm said. "Parkinson's patients have a difficult journey, but determination gets you a long way."

The foundation's mission is twofold: to generate Parkinson's awareness through the arts and to provide an avenue for Parkinson's patients to engage in the arts. The goal of the gala is to raise funds for the foundation, the Hays Area Children's Center and the Davis Phinney Foundation, an international Parkinson's organization headquartered in Boulder, Colo.

"I've always had an appreciation for the arts," Dannebohm said. "With this disease, I am increasingly appreciative of the vital role the arts play in our lives. Research has shown that art provides Parkinson's patients in particular with healing and therapy, a chance to exercise their brain."

The Children's Center, whose annual fundraising event "Bright Lights for Little Tykes" is set for the same weekend, has joined forces with the Emerald Ball. It will have several items in the auction, including decorative Christmas trees, vacation packages and fine art pieces.

Schmidt-Bickle Indoor Training Facility, a $4.2-million facility with a 55-yard artificial turf football field, will be transformed from an athletic arena into a ballroom atmosphere for the beef Wellington dinner, auction and dance. Rather than athletes in shorts and T-shirts practicing for their respective sports, the articles of dress for the night in the 2-year-old facility will be tuxedos and evening gowns.

"You will walk in, and it won't look like a football field," Dannebohm said. "This promises to be a festive event with more than 500 feet of translucent curtain accented by emerald green lighting, beautiful floral decorations, everything you'd expect from a ball."

One of the entertainers, Ron Neumann and the Diamonds Vocal Band, is bringing a Las Vegas stage show that includes a huge 24-by-32-foot stage that can hold a grand piano. The Diamonds launched to fame in 1956 with their first hit, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"

Another iconic musician performing will be 1960s pop singer Frankie Valens, whose hits included "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "This Magic Moment."

There will be silent and oral auctions featuring numerous art pieces, as well as a dance on a 20-by-40-foot dance floor.

"You're not just coming to a dinner and dance," Dannebohm said. "You're coming to a Vegas-style stage show, an experience."

Other entertainment will include renowned violinist Allison Boyt and local talent from Fort Hays State -- the Fort Hays Singers and the FHSU pep band. The FHSU musicians will highlight the quality of talent that can be found in the Sunflower State. The Singers will perform "Over the Rainbow," a song with special significance for Tigers and for Kansans everywhere, and they will back up Frankie Valens on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Dannebohm and President Martin will serve as the honorary hosts for the ball. Wichita television personality Sierra Scott from The Brett & Sierra Show will serve as the emcee and will be joined on stage by Jenn Bates, co-anchor of KWCH Eyewitness News.

In addition to numerous pieces of original artwork, cruises and several other high-end items, the auction will include items autographed by famous athletes: a boxing glove (Muhammed Ali), a sports card (Scottie Pippen), a Chicago Bulls cap (Michael Jordan), and a Tour de France cap, jacket and duffel bags (Davis Phinney).

There also will be a rare bicycle valued at $25,000. A shadow box with a 1983 Team 7-Eleven Murray road racing bike can be viewed in the storefront window of Diamond R Jewelry in downtown Hays at 1008 Main.

A reception honoring the Herndon Clinic in honor of its award is scheduled from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. the day before the ball at FHSU's Robbins Center. Members of the board, visiting dignitaries and members of the Eaton family will be in attendance. Also honored that day will be Parkinson's patients Roy Roden from Miami, Fla., and Allison Smith from Santa Ana, Calif., who will receive the Lisa Reser Award, named for an Ellinwood elementary school teacher who taught 17 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's.

The Downtown Development Center also will host a public reception in honor of those award recipients from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at Diamond R Jewelry. All then will receive their awards at the Saturday night ball.

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