Cowford Ball Heads for Fund-Raising Milestone; the Cancer Society Expects to Cross the $4 Million Mark with This Year's Gala

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY, The Times-Union

Despite a postponement caused by Hurricane Jeanne and losing some corporate sponsorships to the Super Bowl, the 10th annual Cowford Ball will reach a fund-raising milestone this year, organizers said.

"We'll easily be over the $4 million mark," said Lori Ann Whittington, associate director of the Duval County unit of the American Cancer Society, which hosts the gala and uses the proceeds primarily to serve child cancer victims.

The nine previous events have generated a total of $3.8 million, Whittington said, and the agency expects to reach its $600,000 goal for this year's event Saturday at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds.

But it hasn't been easy.

On top of the usual challenge of organizing the event, the Cancer Society has been faced with unusual setbacks.

Several companies -- Whittington would not specify or say how many -- decided to purchase Super Bowl corporate sponsorships and promotions instead of giving to the ball.

"We've had people say, 'We're giving to the Super Bowl,' " Whittington said. "Obviously, those funds have to come from somewhere."

She estimated the ball's Super Bowl-related loss at "upwards of $100,000."

The Super Bowl will be played Feb. 6 in Jacksonville.

Named after Jacksonville's original name, the Cowford Ball's original Oct. 2 date had to be moved because Hurricane Jeanne disrupted the lives of event volunteers and donors, the agency said. It also has created scheduling conflicts for some regular attendees.

Attendance is expected to be down from the normal 900 to 1,000 attendees to 700 to 800.

But Whittington added that some people who normally cannot attend will be able to do so this year.

"The interest is still very much there," she said, "probably not as much as in previous years, but still very strong."

Event volunteers like Kitty Sheldon, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident fighting cancer, said the ball must go on, as must all efforts to fight cancer. …

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