Special Events Stories & Photos

Rochester PHA Gala
Rochester, Minn.

10 Years Raising PH Awareness, Funds and Fun!

By Michael McGoon, MD, and Bonnie McGoon
Organizers of the Rochester PH Gala

Gala Committee members - from left, Louise Durst, RN and Sue Tointon, RN, both from Mayo Clinic; Marilyn Manor, RN and Laura Burns, RN, both from Accredo. Gala Committee members - from left, Louise Durst, RN and Sue Tointon, RN,
both from Mayo Clinic; Marilyn Manor, RN and Laura Burns, RN, both from

The Rochester PH Gala was first held in 2001. The inspiration for its initiation can be traced back to the PHA International PH Conference in Chicago in 2000. At that Conference, a real sense emerged that we had seen genuine progress in the treatment of PH and yet there remained much to be done.

We (nurses, physicians and non-medical spouses) returned to Rochester, Minn., thinking there was a vibrant atmosphere of accomplishment, hope and need. Informal discussions led to the idea of a gala to spark community awareness and (we hoped) generosity. Before we knew it, plans solidified for a formal dinner and dance with a lottery (for a classic Corvette donated by a generous patient) and a silent auction.

The first gala was a wonderful success and it initiated a series of biennial events which have continued to evolve. Each subsequent gala has capitalized on the successful aspects of the galas that came before. We went from a formal affair to themed events, such as recreating an atmosphere of the 1940s, and fun entertainment, like magic shows and karaoke contests. The lottery of motor vehicles continues, and we’ve had raffles of jewelry from a local business. Our auctions include items such as private airplane excursions piloted by Carl Hicks, former chair of PHA’s Board of Trustees.

Through the gala, we realized that pulmonary hypertension was becoming a well-recognized cause behind which the community could rally — awareness was palpably increased with each passing year. In order to focus on this aspect, we recruited the participation of the editor of Rochester Magazine, Steve Lange, as our honorary chairman in 2009. He generously publicized the events in 2009 and 2011.

The gala has fostered awareness and contributed resources to the mission of PHA, and it has become a communal activity where medical professionals, patients, medical companies and community members all make essential contributions. The challenge now is to continue to live up to the high expectations that have been established — a challenge that we look forward to meeting at each succeeding event.


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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.