best charity event
The annual Share Your Heart Ball is known not only for its elegance, but also its ability to bring joy and fun to those who attend.
Sun Valley Guide photo
silliness, laughter and
a lot of joy
Camp Rainbow Gold benefit key to keeping cancer camps going.
by Kate Wutz
For the past 13 years, the Share Your Heart Ball has been a staple in the Wood River Valley—a must-attend fundraising event for Camp Rainbow Gold, a Ketchum-based organization dedicated to providing three weeks of camp for children with cancer, their siblings and their families. But the stakes were raised in 2014 when the American Cancer Society cut its support for Camp Rainbow Gold and 40 other oncology camps across the country, forcing the Ketchum organization to become an independent nonprofit group.
"It was one of those fortunate things where we had a board and a staff and volunteers who said, 'We are not going to let Camp Rainbow Gold go away,'" said Christl Holzl, the organization's development director. "We are completely committed to keeping our programs stable, consistent and free for those who need them."
Valley residents—who have voted the Share Your Heart Ball the Best Charity Event—stepped up to the challenge, making the fundraiser an even bigger success and providing financial stability. Holzl said the ball raised more than $600,000 in 2015, a significant portion of the organization's annual operating budget.
"It just speaks to the heart of our community," she said. "We've been so fortunate that not only the Wood River Valley community, but the Idaho community, has supported Camp Rainbow Gold through the Share Your Heart Ball."
Part of the ball's appeal is its cause, of course. In addition to three to four weeks of oncology camp per year, Camp Rainbow Gold also provides scholarships and year-round support groups for young cancer survivors.
However, Holzl said the ball also appeals to Wood River Valley party-goers because of its signature combination of fun and elegance.
"We know our valley loves to dress up, to get out of their ski clothes and put on a nice cocktail dress," she said. "It's elegant, but like camp, it's fun. We really focus on bringing the outdoor environment in."
The evening involves both traditional and "paddle-up" auctions, during which attendees raise their paddles to give a donation of a certain amount rather than to bid on a particular item. But attendees can also donate to participate in traditional camp activities at the event. Last year, guests clad in formal gowns and tuxedos went "fishing" with mock poles and attempted to shoot bullseyes at an archery station in order to win gift certificates and other prizes.
Perhaps the most emotional activity is the Wish Cone Ceremony, in which attendees throw pinecones into an outdoor fire pit in a nod to camp tradition. At the end of each camp session, the children gather around a campfire and write their wishes, hopes and dreams onto small pieces of paper, which are then rolled up and stuffed into a pinecone. Campers throw their cones into the fire at the end of the ceremony, sending their wishes into the ether—a ceremony that always means tears for the participants.
"It's beautiful," Holzl said. "It can be moving and touching, sometimes sad, but it's always a celebration of life."
The mission of Camp Rainbow Gold is to bring that feeling of joy and celebration to families in the midst of the morass of emotions they experience when a child is diagnosed with cancer.
"Of course we're dealing with a terrible disease, and there can sometimes be sad outcomes," Holzl said. "But camp brings a lot of joy and hope and empowerment to these kids and their families. There is a ton of silliness and laughter and a lot of joy."
The 2016 Share Your Heart Ball will take place on Jan. 23. For more information on how to contribute to the Share Your Heart Ball or Camp Rainbow Gold, visit www.camprainbowgold.org or call the organization's Boise office at (208) 350-6435.