As the chairman of Catholic Charities’ Celebration of Hope headed to the podium at the Oregon Convention Center March 16, he did not walk alone. Greg Van Pelt took his family with him.
The retiring chief executive of Providence Health & Services for Oregon guided his wife (and co-chair) Joan, his son and daughter-in-law, Andy and Jenise, and their children, to the stage to reinforce his message about the importance of family. Family was the theme of this year’s celebration.
Van Pelt shared a film about a family served by Catholic Charities. The Turners — Claire, Mark, and John — who were present at the event, let the audience have a glimpse of their lives following an adoption aided by Catholic Charities. Several years ago, when the couple realized they would like to adopt, Mark and Claire turned to Robin Neal, manager of Catholic Charities Pregnancy Support and Adoption Program. Neal introduced the couple to Andrea Lachat and her son, John. Lachat had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer her son was 2. She died in 2011, but not before she had seen her child safe and well, adopted by the Turners.
The celebration is the organization’s most important fundraiser of the year, generating nearly one-third of Charities’ annual operating budget. Supporters, donors, board members and staff members come together to celebrate the non-profit’s work. Now in its 16th year, the event raised a record amount — more than $750,000. A gift challenge from Regence BlueCross BlueShield and honorary chairpersons Mark and Leslie Ganz boosted the total. Event organizers also noted a record attendance of 1,050 guests.
Marvin Kaiser, chairman of the Catholic Charities board, greeted guests and welcomed to the podium retiring Archbishop John G. Vlazny for the final time. Archbishop Vlazny took the following day’s feast of St. Patrick as his inspiration and entertained the audience with Irish stories and jokes.
Sponsors of the 2013 Celebration of Hope were Providence Health & Services. Mark and Leslie Ganz and Regence BlueCross BlueShield provided the matching gift challenge. Platinum sponsors were the Archdiocese of Portland, Alpha Broadcasting, Clark Foundation and O’Donnell Clark & Crew, LLP. Brian and Maureen Smoluch, whose family’s charitable fund was a Gold Sponsor of this year’s event, have already agreed to serve as chairs for the 2014 celebration.