Guests walked down the red carpet and through the doors of the Coastline Convention Center Friday, Aug. 29, each person wearing various articles of white clothing to celebrate the end of summer.
During the fourth annual Last Chance for White Pants Gala, guests enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres from Middle of the Island, live music by Mo’Sol and raffle prizes. Proceeds from the 500 admission tickets sold and the raffle benefitted the Every Moment Matters Campaign to add a six-room patient wing and renovate the existing 12-room Dr. Robert M. Fales Hospice Pavilion.
As guests continued to arrive, many paused to purchase raffle tickets and admire the prizes. The Cape Fear Women’s Club put together 11 baskets worth a total of $5,000 to be raffled off. Jackie Whitaker from the Cape Fear Women’s Club said she was excited to help the gala become more successful than ever.
“The White Pants Gala has gotten such a good reputation,” she said. “Everybody [with hospice]is so giving and it’s a good feeling to be a part of it.”
Many of the attendees were hospice volunteers like Cary Newman, who began volunteering in 2012. His passion for the hospice program was fueled by the connection he formed with his very first patient, a man named Gene Russ.
Newman met with Russ every Wednesday at 10:30. They would play pool for one hour and then talk for three hours. As Russ told stories about living through the Great Depression and entering the Navy in 1939, Newman was reminded of his own father, who died when Newman was 35. Newman said the connection he formed with Russ and his family showed him the importance of hospice.
“He had such an incredible zest for life,” Newman said. “He had a beautiful family, and I ended up getting close with the family as well. And through that you start to see the lasting impact here.”
He described witnessing these benefits of hospice to not only the patient, but also the patient’s family.
“You’ve got this team that the family sees come in to support their loved one,” Newman said. “There’s a huge pressure on family members when you have a loved one in the end stages of life, so you have a way to escape from that for short periods of time.”
Newman said hospice has an enormous impact on the volunteers as well.
“You gain an appreciation for life,” he said. “When you’re in your 80s and you’re facing your own mortality, it’s real. As a volunteer you get a glimpse of that time … and through that you become a better person in the present because you’re more aware of what the future is going to be.”
Newman said these reasons inspired volunteers and community members to continue dedicating themselves to the hospice cause.
“They don’t do it because they make a ton of money. They do it because they love the mission,” he said.