Guys and gals in straw hats, colorful bandannas, and cowboy boots filled The Avalon Manor banquet hall on Saturday afternoon, in a Wild West themed celebration of St. Jude House’s 16th Annual Spring Luncheon.
This annual spring event, dubbed “Boots and Bows” this year after last spring’s “Mommy, Dolly, and Me Tea” event, is put on by St. Jude House as a way for families to come together and enjoy an afternoon of fun, while also serving as a fundraiser to allow St. Jude House to continue helping survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
“It’s the support of our community at events like these, along with our donors and our friends, that allow St. Jude House to keep doing what they’ve been able to do,” said Christine Zielke, the Director of Philanthropy and Planned Giving at Franciscan Ministries. “So today is a thank you to everyone who has supported, and also acts as an opportunity to raise a little money as well.”
The afternoon was complete with small raffle items like toys and games for the children, as well as large raffle items like restaraunt gift cards for the adults. An additional "Boots and Bows Round Up Raffle" included a tractor to win for the boys in attendance, and three American Girl Dolls for the girls.
The event was also attended by a variety of vendors, who lined the banquet hall in custom booths for the attendees to explore. Some of the vendors present LoLo Dolls, My Dolly’s Unique, and Wotherspoon Books. Jill Marie Photography was also present to capture wild west family photos in front of a large barn-themed backdrop.
Following a lunch of grilled chicken sandwiches, corn dogs, and fries, troves of children (and a few adults) flocked to the dance floor to partake in line dancing, which was made easy with the help of Dazzlin’ Dawn and her boot-steppin’ crew.
Yet, between all the raffles, vendors, dancing, and smiling faces - some even boasting fresh artwork from The Art Studio’s face painting team - there was a palpable attitude of purpose and initiative that accompanied the event from the minute the doors were opened. Zielke defined that purposeful undertone as another key step in helping individuals to talk about St. Jude House’s work more openly.
“These events really bring people together to enjoy each other’s company and have a great time, but at the same time now we can spread awareness about something that’s maybe a little bit difficult for people to talk openly about,” said Zielke.
“St. Jude House and the Franciscan Ministries are here to help those that couldn’t help themselves, and we’re here to be a safe haven for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault,” added Zielke. “We want to help them see the light in spite of their tragic situation, and to help them realize that they can overcome that situation and do great things.”
Val Lay, the Director of Development for St. Jude House, agreed that events like the Boots and Bows fundraiser are good opportunities to not only allow for a more open dialogue on domestic abuse and sexual assault, but to also share what St. Jude House can really do for survivors.
“It’s more than just offering food and shelter,” said Lay. “We help survivors with getting jobs, making a budget, finding housing, going to court, and much more.”
In addition, St. Jude House is currently running a Let Kids Be Kids campaign, which is raising money to build a new playground for all of the children staying at St. Jude House. At any one time, there are between 20 to 25 children at St. Jude House, and part of offering them the support they need to cope with their experiences of family violence is to just be a kid and play outside - which is why the Let Kids be Kids campaign is so important.
“Our hope after today is for those in the community to go out and spread the word,” said Lay, “and I just want to thank everyone who has supported what we do, and I thank the community very much for their big hearts and the joy they bring to us through all of the amazing support.”