Eleven community and business leaders launched fundraising campaigns for the American Diabetes Association on Thursday, the official kick-off of the 11th annual Kiss A Pig Gala. This year’s event honorary chair will be Charles Redfield, Executive Vice President, Merchandising, at Sam’s Club.
The contenders, announced during a special event at Bonefish Grill, will spend seven weeks raising money and awareness for diabetes research, advocacy and educational programs for Northwest Arkansas.
The top fundraisers will be announced at the March 9 gala at John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, kissing a pig to thank it for producing the first source of insulin for people with diabetes.
Headlined by REO Speedwagon, the 2013 gala is themed “Time for Pigs to Fly,’’ in honor of the band’s hit song “Time for Me to Fly.’’ The group is also known for hits like “Can’t Fight This Feeling’’ and “Keep on Loving You.’’
“Time for Pigs to Fly’’ is a follow-up to last year’s record-setting gala. More than 1,300 people rocked the night away with Bret Michaels and raised more than $450,000 in a single night. The goal for the 2013 gala is $500,000.
“It will be difficult to top the stunning fundraising totals we had in 2012. But we have an impressive, hard-working group of candidates ready to try. This group is committed to stop diabetes,’’ said event chair Steve Wolf, vice president of Abbott Nutrition, presenting sponsor of the event.
The candidates are Justin Boeving with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, Dr. Randall Feezell of New Directions Physician Weight Loss, Chuck Fehlig of Blue Ocean Innovative Solutions, Karen Gray with Arvest Bank, Todd Hudgens with MARS Advertising, Meritt Hutchison of The Clorox Company, Scott McCall with Walmart, Dr. Heath Stacey of NWA Center for Plastic Surgery, Ben Thankachan of Sam’s Club, Dax Weindorf of Lighthouse Financial, and Dustin Williams with Precision Fitness.
The eleven contenders will use direct fundraising, silent auctions, gala ticket sales, and a variety of other creative methods to raise money to be used to fight diabetes locally.
More than 25 million children and adults in the United States are affected by diabetes, including about 35,000 in Northwest Arkansas. By 2050, 1 in 3 people are projected to have diabetes.
“There is an urgency in the fight against diabetes, and you will see that reflected in the work over the next few weeks of our dedicated candidates and volunteers,’’ said Wolf.
The emcees for the gala will be KNWA anchor Neile Jones and Jon Williams of 104.9 the X. Williams was one of the 10 candidates who set fundraising records last year.
The latest group of candidates met each other and mingled during the kick-off event at Bonefish Grill, then had a chance to explain why they joined the fight.
The ADA has ranked the formal event held annually in Rogers as the top Kiss a Pig Gala in the nation. Johnson & Johnson is the entertainment sponsor, which allows the event to bring high profile acts like REO Speedwagon. The gala receives a generous in-kind donation from MARS Advertising, which provides the creative assets. Other major sponsors are Walmart/Sam’s Club, Northwest Health, Land-O-Frost, Pfizer Consumer Health, Unilever, GSK, Nipro Diagnostics, Blue Bunny, and Samsung.
About 1,400 people are expected for the 2013 gala, which includes dinner, dancing and silent and live auctions. Tickets are $200 and available online at www.diabetes.org/nwakissapig.