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Rialzo IV a success for Meridian, community

May 2

Written by:
Thursday, May 2, 2013  RssIcon

from The Star Press 

MUNCIE — Supporters of Meridian Health Services are still singing “Joy to the World” after the success of the agency’s annual Rialzo fundraiser.

During the fourth annual gala event, Meridian raised $85,000 from ticket sales, auction items and direct appeals for funds during the evening that featured Three Dog Night, more than double what the organization raised in 2012.

“The first couple of years, it’s been an investment. We had to do some friend-raising before we could do some fundraising,” said Scott Smalstig, the vice president of fund development for Meridian. “Those two years, we introduced people to Meridian as a charity and now they’re seeing this is a party with a purpose. We’re raising money or our programs and it’s just amazing.”

In 2012, the agency netted slightly more than $40,000 from the event, which welcomed more than 600 guests to listen to The Pointer Sisters.

With more guests — 820 total — and more auction items, the agency staff expected to raise more dollars, but were surprised to see the increase in donations.

The silent and live auctions raised more than 100 percent more than last year’s auctions, thanks to changes in the marketing of the items.

In past Rialzos, guests didn’t discover what auction items were available until they arrived at the event. This year, the agency’s staff created an online page, highlighting the travel packages, autographed footballs and popular pets available for bids.

“Having that page, I think, gave people a chance to think about what they wanted and how much they were willing to spend on them. They did some planning and it worked,” Smalstig said.

Last year, the agency used money raised at the event to pay for tools for their 150 behavioral clinicians who travel across the state to work, primarily with children.

This year, the board decided the dollars would be split among different agency needs: $7,500 for improvements to their recreational in-patient program for senior citizens; $5,000 for their employees assisting the FosterHope therapy program for foster parents and children; $5,000 for Meridian’s supportive program for homeless Hoosiers seeking housing; and nearly $19,000 for mobile units for the Wheeling to Healing program for 75 clinicians at $250 a unit.

Decisions will be made on how to allocate the remaining $40,000-plus, but Meridian leaders have said the money will stay within the agency, assisting the 700 employees now working in 26 Indiana counties to serve their 14,000 clients.

“I love how the community has taken ownership of this event, understanding more about Meridian and more about the needs of our community,” said Hank Milius, president and CEO of Meridian. “Each year the event keeps growing and growing and that’s great. It’s becoming the premier event in the area and it helps us help so many people.”

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