Forest Gump inspires Sweetheart Ball

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Sold out weeks before the event Feb. 9, the Sweetheart Ball has achieved what other organizations can only dream about. The ball is a combination of lap-of-luxury trappings with a financial commitment to help others.

A benefit for Help the Needy, a nonprofit organization that offers a “hand up rather than a handout,” the ball is distinguished by the caliber of donated auction items.

From the sublime to the adventurous, the items include one week in condos in Hawaii and Florida, a week in a home in Breckenridge, a night at the Broadmoor and brunch at the Summit, an overnight and dinner at the Swiss Chalet, Bronco Billy's or the Wyndham and dinners at upscale restaurants in Ute Pass and Colorado Springs.

Art work, salon services, furniture, jewelry, liquor and limos, the items are pamper-plus. Perhaps the most unusual is a pack-trained llama donated by Stage Stop Llamas in Teller County.

The theme is compelling, a line borrowed from Forest Gump that “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get.”

With 63 boxes of chocolates, each with a gift certificate attached, guests are invited to buy a box for varying prices and gamble on what's inside, a reflection of the Gump theme. “You never know what life is going to deal you, so that's where Help the Needy comes in,” said Linda Meier, who with Rose Carpenter, chairs the event. “It's a great event to be part of because there are a lot of needy families in Teller County.”

This year's needs are somewhat different from those of last year. “The distribution of our monies has usually gone to help pay utility bills,” said Bob Taylor, president of the HtN board. “This year, we're paying more mortgage payments and rent they were what the clients needed to get through the period.”

Taylor is proud of the quality of HtN's largesse, a process that begins with the initial interview. “When a client comes in, they get one of two answers: no or a qualified yes,” Taylor said.

If affirmative, clients receive budget counseling and advice on making decisions. “When people are in crisis mode, they make bad decisions,” he said. To seal the deal, clients sign a contract agreeing to seek ways to be self-sustaining within a few months.

“We tell them they have to make better decisions,” Taylor said.

Help the Needy was founded 31 years ago by Greg Schilling who modeled the all-volunteer organization on assessing clients' willingness to be helped.

The Sweetheart Ball, which features valet parking and dinner by Neil Levy's Swiss Chalet, is sold out but the organizers encourage others to come to Shining Mountain Golf Club at 9 p.m. to dance to the John Cary Band.

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