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Saturday 15 December 2018
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Valentine Ball 2019

Event chairmen carry on family traditions
photo by Paul Nurnberg
As a young teen growing up in Beaufort, Allison Coppage always enjoyed seeing her parents dress up for the town’s social affair of the season – the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation Valentine Ball.
“Each year, I watched my mom don a beautiful gown and my dad pull out his tux for the annual ball,” she said.
It was a ritual her grandparents first practiced in 1990 when they attended the inaugural Valentine Ball and what would become Beaufort Memorial’s premier fundraiser.
Thirty years later, Coppage and her husband, Ben, are co-chairing the 2019 event with Beaufort Memorial general surgeon Dr. Stephen Sisco and his wife, Laurie.
“The Valentine Ball has always and forever been a tradition in my family,” Coppage said. “We take great pride in the hospital and want to support it any way we can. It’s really an anchor of our community.”
The family’s close association with Beaufort Memorial dates back to 1971 when Coppage’s grandfather, the late Dr. Earnest Collins, joined the BMH medical staff, becoming the first OB-GYN in Beaufort County. The hospital’s birthing center is named in his honor.
Her father, Dr. Brad Collins, is a pathologist at the hospital and serves as director of its lab. This year, he and his wife, Cindy, will host their 19th pre-ball dinner party. The hallmark feature of the Valentine Ball, the private dinners are what distinguish the event from so many other nonprofit organization fundraisers.
Each guest who purchases a ticket to the ball by January 11 will receive an invitation to one of the pre-ball dinners hosted by Beaufort residents in their private homes.
“The size of the dinner parties can range from six to 30,” said Coppage, who has co-hosted dinners twice in recent years. “That’s one of the things that makes them so much fun. Every party is unique.”
Long before she attended her first ball, Coppage was working behind-the-scenes at her parents’ pre-ball dinners.
“I remember their first party in 1998,” Coppage said. “I helped mom in the kitchen prep her famous seafood strudel, a true labor of love that I served at my own dinner party in 2017.”
This time around, she’s helping orchestrate the entire 30th anniversary Valentine Ball weekend, taking place Feb. 8-9 at Tabby Place in downtown Beaufort. The festivities include the elegant Cocktail Affair Friday evening, followed Saturday night by the pre-gala dinner parties and black-tie ball.
Serving as honorary co-chairs of the Cocktail Affair are Vicki and Jon Verity, whose history with the foundation fundraiser also dates back three decades.
“My parents, Bill and Peggy Verity, moved to Beaufort in the late ‘80s and got very involved in the community and were among the first to host a dinner party for the Valentine Ball,” Jon Verity said. “On a number of occasions, Vicki and I would come to town from Chicago to join in the dinner. The most memorable was when former Beaufort Mayor David Taub arrived on his motorcycle in his black tie.”
Since moving to Beaufort, Jon and Vicki Verity have seen firsthand the critical role the hospital plays in the health of the community.
“My father was in and out of the hospital regularly in the last several years of his life,” Jon Verity said. “He always had excellent care.”
Verity was just as impressed with the treatment his grandson received when he needed an emergency appendectomy at midnight on a Saturday night.
Proceeds from the 2019 fundraiser will help pay for the renovation of Beaufort Memorial’s surgical pavilion. To date, the Valentine Ball has raised nearly $5 million for a wide range of hospital improvements, from the expansion of the ER to digital diagnostic technology for the Breast Health Center.
Dr. Sisco, a member of the medical staff since 1998, has seen the benefits of the many improvements.
“Since my time here, Beaufort Memorial Hospital has strived to stay on the forefront of medical care delivery and has recruited an amazing staff of physicians as well as an entire hospital staff equipped to deliver the best quality of current medical care,” he said. “I couldn’t have found a better place to spend my career.”
Not long after he began dating his wife, Laurie, who served for several years as a surgical technologist in Beaufort Memorial’s OR, Sisco invited her to the Valentine Ball.
“We had a great time and met many wonderful people,” Laurie Sisco recalled. “Since then, we have held pre-ball dinners in our home where we have met more amazing people from our community. It’s a great opportunity to connect with the community on a personal level.”
With broad support for the hospital, the co-chairs have had no trouble enlisting the dozens of volunteers it takes to organize the foundation’s biggest fundraiser. Committees tasked with various aspects of the festivities are busy at work coordinating the evening’s musical entertainment and decadent dessert bar, soliciting items for the silent auction and recruiting hosts for the pre-ball dinner parties to be held in some 50 private Beaufort residences.
“This is Beaufort’s premier party with a purpose,” Coppage said. “People recognize the importance of the hospital to our community and look forward to the ball each year.”
Tickets for the 2019 Valentine Ball weekend are now available. Friday Cocktail Affair tickets are $80 per person, Saturday gala tickets $150 and tickets for both events are $200. For more information on the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation fundraiser, visit ValentineBall.org or call the foundation at (843) 522-5774.