LAURINBURG — Throughout the year, those who make a habit of attending Scotland Memorial Foundation’s premier fundraiser may find themselves looking forward to several of its ancillary benefits: a limitless buffet of gourmet dishes, a chance to kick off their shoes and dance, or just the annual opportunity to don a tuxedo or evening gown.
”My wife actually works here, so this is probably the fourth or fifth one I’ve been to in the last 10 years or so,” said Jerry Griffith of Rockingham. “It’s for a good cause and it gives everybody a chance to dress up and go out and see some other people. Not much goes on around Scotland County, and it’s something everybody looks forward to every year.”
But ultimately, the 475 guests at Saturday night’s Putting on the Ritz gathered under an impossibly large white tent in the Community Health and Rehabilitation Center parking lot for a single cause.
Wearing his heart on his sleeve, orthopedic surgeon Richard Alexander took the microphone in an impromptu appeal to the crowd.
“This hospital cannot survive unless you give what you can give,” he said. “This is our community. If we don’t take care of ourselves, who’s going to take care of us? We have the means, all of you at the tables.
“Give what you can give to save your mom, to save your dad, to save your child. If you have a broken arm, we’ll take care of it. If you have cancer, we’ve got it.”
And the crowd responded, via their smart phones pledging a record $28,461 to the evening’s “Fund the Need” drive for the benefit of Scotland Cancer Treatment Center’s patient assistance fund.
Levels of extreme satiety may have contributed to that number, as guests began the evening sampling shrimp cocktail, antipasto, and kale, barley, and tomato salad. Heartier courses available ranged from grilled swordfish to roasted turkey with a Oaxacan mole sauce, along with seafood beignets and other Deep South specialties.
To the splendid array of entrees, the dessert spread took no backseat, with individual servings of bananas foster and brownie a la mode — topped with salted caramel ice cream, caramel syrup, and a pinch of sea salt — assembled on demand.
Regina Gaston, Scotland Health Care System’s director of environmental services, attended her second Ritz this year drawn by “the good food, the camaraderie, and the atmosphere.”
“I had so much fun last time I thought I’d come back again this year,” she said. “I love bidding on the Michael Kors purses.”
More than 150 items found new homes in the event’s silent auction. Though the live auction items were fewer, they brought a total of $19,100, with a set of tickets to the 2016 ACC tournament bringing $7,000.
A Ritz first-timer attending with a party from Gryphon Group, Angela Hasty of Laurinburg fulfilled a bucket list item.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about this event and I’ve just always wanted to come,” she said. “I’m very excited to see what all the fuss is about. I think it’s way up at the top, that’s for sure. It’s just beautiful out here.”
Prior to the live auction, Teresa Barfield of Laurinburg was drawn as the winner of the Ritz’s featured raffle. She will have her choice of a $10,000 prize, a 2015 Fiat Pop, or a John Deere Gator.
Fundraising totals for this year’s event are not yet available, but the 2014 Ritz raised more than $180,000 for Scotland Memorial Foundation, which sponsors educational and awareness events, health screenings for those in need, sports physicals for middle and high school students, prescriptions and medical supplies for those unable to afford them, and scholarships for high school students pursuing health careers.
“You all have a choice of where to be tonight, and we all know that there are lots of places in our community where you can invest your resources, and I want to personally thank each and every one of you for choosing to support Scotland Memorial Foundation,” said foundation chair Guy McCook.
“The dollars that you contribute tonight help us touch hundreds of people every year by funding health programs and services that offer hope, encouragement, and education to live a healthier life.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.