This year’s annual Heart Ball to support Bonner General Health was a true success, highlighting how the Sandpoint family comes together to support BGH and the continued health of its community. “The Heart Ball has been fabulous, not only because it’s a beautiful, fun event, but it raises money for things that the hospital couldn’t do or purchase without that support,” says Bonner General Health CEO Sheryl Rickard.
Valentines-themed decorations including large floral centerpieces, violet backlit curtains and magical twinkle lights transformed the Bonner County Fairgrounds, where the event took place on Saturday, February 15. “Georgia Simmons was the chair of this year's ball, and her background in design was clearly evident in the breathtaking decorations,” says Bonner General Health Foundation member Patty Hutchins.
When a letter first arrived with a gold seal, Malarie Laffoon was a bit skeptical. It looked like spam mail.
But when she opened it, it revealed a delightful surprise: Brady, her 8-year-old son, had been nominated and invited to attend a prestigious STEM program in Seattle this summer.
In order to be nominated, his grades had to be high and he had to demonstrate an extreme amount of maturity, both attributes Laffoon recognized. But still, a week at a camp in Seattle?
“I’m thinking, ‘Really, my 8-year-old kid is gonna do this?’” Laffoon said. Brady was skeptical, too, she said, which made her feel a bit better: It was fine that he didn’t want to go. Laffoon couldn’t sleep, though, she said; it was too great of an opportunity, too huge for his future, to not encourage him more to go. And when they re-assessed, Brady was on board—and so was she.
When he was 16 months old, Brian and Tricia Sturgis’ son Henry (Hank) was diagnosed with cystinosis, a rare genetic disease that causes the amino acid cystine to build up in the cells and over time destroy various organs including the kidneys, liver, muscles, white blood cells, eyes and central nervous system.
Cystinosis is an orphan disease, with only 500 cases in the U.S. and 2,000 worldwide. As a result, there is no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to fund research, which means any research for a cure or treatment must come from private funding.
When Hank was diagnosed, friends of the family wanted to know how they could help. Hank’s cystinosis requires care 24 hours a day, so the group asked themselves what they could do for 24 hours without stopping. The result was the first fundraiser bike ride in 2008, followed by 24 Hours at Schweitzer—a full day of around-the-clock skiing to raise funds for cystinosis research.