Festival of Hope teams play hard for serious causes

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Raising money for the Festival of Hope can be some serious fun.

Along with the tried and true bake sales and plate lunches, the 30-plus teams participating in the seventh annual festival have put on traditional and not-so traditional beauty pageants, cheerleading camps and raffled off just about anything that wasn't nailed down.

Many of the teams keep their successes close to the vest, waiting for the results to be unveiled tonight at the end of the Festival of Hope at the Tupelo Furniture Market, Mississippi Building. But the big winners are the people fighting cancer, diabetes and heart disease, who benefit from fundraising efforts.

Something hilarious

One of the wackiest fundraising events was the Hopeless Beauty Pageant organized by the North Mississippi Medical Center Heart Institute.

The cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, who normally are as serious as a heart attack with patients, have been known to play a joke or two on each other privately. The April 6 womanless beauty pageant provided them and other notables with a sense of humor a chance to be silly for a good cause with the Hopeless Beauty review.

“They've been giving to Project Hope for years,” said registered nurse Kim Jones, team captain for the Heart Institute team. “What really sold them was that it will help our patients.”

In addition to heart physicians, they also had support from around the hospital, including president Chuck Stokes, and the larger community, including Sheriff Jim Johnson and firefighter Jimmy Avery.

“They put on a hilarious show,” Jones said. “They had a great time.”

Two cardiologists started a mock cat fight on stage. Dr. Jimmy Johnson included back flips in his performance. Another cardiologist tried to steal winner Dr. Mark Strong's crown.

“They put on a great show,” Jones said. “We couldn't have rehearsed it better.”

The dresses for the contestants, tuxedos for the escorts and flowers were all donated.

“We had a lot of people in the community support us,” Jones said.

The pageant raise more than $1,800 for the Festival of Hope.

“We want to do it again,” possibly partnering with other groups, Jones said.

Paying up

For the Festival of Hope, the BancorpSouth Credit Card Center team had their co-workers paying for privileges.

To help people with diabetes, cancer and heart disease, co-captain Katie Daniels and her team came up with two high-value items – wearing jeans and a great parking spot.

“Normally we don't do Casual Friday,” Daniels said. For $5, the employees at the credit card center and other buildings at the BancorpSouth operations center, were able to wear blue jeans on a designated day, Daniels said. “It was one of our biggest fundraisers.”

For the cause, the credit card center's manager gave up her primo parking space by the front door for a week and the team auctioned it off, Daniels said.

They also raffled off a host of donated items and held a pot luck dinner.

“Lots of people know what Project Hope does,” Daniels said. “It's a big hit because money stays local.”

Staying busy

Since the Festival of Hope formally kicked off its efforts in February, the team at Tupelo Service Finance has been busy.

They've held a cheerleading camp, published a cookbook, designed a T-shirt, held a rummage sale, created candles, organized a raffle and hosted a traditional beauty review. In all, it's brought in about $3,000.

“We're not through yet,” said co-captain Katie McGinnis a week ago.

The causes Festival of Hope supports hit close to home for the team. Several members of McGinnis' family have had cancer. Beth Gentry, one of the other co-captains, lost her mom to cancer a year ago.

“We have 26 people helping us,” McGinnis said. “We've been really excited. It's a team effort.”