Jay Gatsby himself may not have been at Friday night's Chefs' Auction, but the Jazz Age was nevertheless in full swing as more than 600 - many decked out in period attire - came out for the event to support Wheeling Health Right.
Despite the jovial atmosphere set to the theme of "The Roaring '20s," the cause that brought the sellout crowd to WesBanco Arena for the event is no laughing matter. Proceeds from the 20th annual auction benefit the 29th Street clinic, which provides low- or no-cost medical care to almost 20,000 residents of West Virginia's Northern Panhandle and southeastern Ohio who live at or below the federal poverty level, 7,500 of those in Wheeling alone.
Health Right has an annual budget of about $1.5 million, but must raise about $750,000 of that on its own, according to Executive Director Kathie Brown.
Photo by Ian Hicks
More than 600 people attend Wheeling Health Right’s 20th annual Chefs’ Auction Friday night at WesBanco Arena. The event’s theme was “The Roaring ‘20s.”
"We need to raise at least 50 percent of our funds within the community," she said. "And with cuts at the state level, we'll need to raise even more."
Brown said Health Right's clientele are those who have "fallen through the cracks" of the traditional health care system - people who perhaps make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for medical insurance. Some of those who receive care at Health Right hold down two or three jobs to make ends meet, she added.
"Seventy percent of our patient population works every day. ... It's tough," Brown said.
The event raised $85,000 for Health Right last year, which the organization expects to eclipse this year with more than 600 tickets sold for Friday's event.
"We sold out this year and had to put up extra tables, so we're pretty excited," Brown said.
Participants in a silent auction had to chance to bid on a multitude of items, from variety gift baskets to artwork, jewelry and tools. A live auction conducted by veteran auctioneer Jim Frio provided the chance to take home several big-ticket items, including a 43-inch flatscreen TV and a four-pack of Pittsburgh Pirates tickets complete with tailgating gear.
Pittsburgh caricature artist Sam Thong helped capture the magic of the evening by sketching free portraits, and the jazz duo of Drs. Christopher Barrick and Mark Williams - known as Pair O'Docs - provided entertainment.
Guests also got to sample food and drink from 17 area restaurants, including Cabela's Powder Horn Grill, Cafe Burress and Jaremiah's Express, Camelot, Centre Market Bakery, Kirke's Homemade Ice Cream, Mehlman's Cafeteria, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, Parkhurst Dining Services, Perkins Restaurant, Quaker Steak & Lube, Ruttenbuck's Grill, Stratford Steak & Seafood, WesBanco Arena, Wheeling Coffee & Spice, Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack and Oglebay Park.