Special Events Stories & Photos

Rochester PHA Gala
November, 2009

Looking Back Over a Decade of Memories

Last November 21 marked the 5th Biennial Rochester, Minn., PHA Gala, a series of events that has raised nearly $400,000 since its beginnings in 2001. The night’s theme, Reach for the Stars — Karaoke for a Cause, marked “a turning point in terms of raising awareness,” says Dr. Mike McGoon, a PH-treating physician and one of the gala organizers. A fresh new concept reminiscent of an American Idol-like karaoke contest, the event attracted attendees who had no prior understanding of PH.

To celebrate the longstanding awareness-raising achievements of the Rochester Gala throughout the years, PHA spoke with Dr. McGoon and his wife Bonnie McGoon, who have both been instrumental in organizing the galas and who were able to offer a unique perspective on its evolution over the last decade!

Red Corvette2001: “We trusted the idea that if the cause is good, it will just have to be successful — and it was, [thanks to] great support from a variety of sources: friends, patients, donors and PHA. This gala set the stage and enthusiasm for continuing in future years.” Pictured right is a red Corvette which was generously donated by the Schoenleben family and raffled off at the event.

2003: This gala continued to be a formal affair, built upon what “seemed to be a successful formula,” expanding the night’s activities and keeping the focus on raising PH awareness and funds for patient support programs at PHA. A serendipitous turn of events had the McGoons’ own daughter win the event’s car raffle, “but hey, she bought her own raffle ticket!” they explain.

2005: Beginning in 2005, the Rochester Gala began incorporating themes. Titled PHenomenal PHifties, the McGoons explain that the night lent itself to creative and impressive costumes among attendees — and some great dancing.

Hondo, Dr. McGoon and gala participants2007: For the 4th biennial, the gala planning committee turned back the clocks a decade to host the PHenomenal PHorties, which “turned out to have certain relevance — a time of struggle and success,” says Dr. McGoon. Described as one of the most fun galas, the night included the Amazing Hondo who “brought great magic, and actually turned his show into an impromptu extension of the [gala’s live] auction … [as he] got an audience member to auction off his very loud sports coat,” Dr. McGoon remembers. In the photo left, Hondo (pictured left) stands with Dr. McGoon.

Dr. Franz singing 2009: The McGoons describe Reach for the Stars — Karaoke for a Cause as “a big step in trying to broaden the awareness of the gala in the community by including an honorary chair who brought a new enthusiasm and the ability to more broadly publicize and raise awareness about the gala and its cause, by incorporating a theme that encouraged participation, and by pairing the evening gala with an afternoon discussion session for medical professionals…. [PHA Board member] Betty Lou’s and [PHA Board Chair] Carl’s stories indelibly affected everyone who was there.”

Steve Lange, honorary event chair and Editor of Rochester Magazine, says, “I have a much deeper understanding of PH, and, maybe more importantly, of the people who work so hard behind the scenes to make a difference in the lives of those with PH. It was very moving to be part of a group and an event in which the people cared so deeply for the cause.” In the photo to the right, event contestant Dr. Robert Frantz does his best Bob Dylan. Photo courtesy of Rochester Magazine.



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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.