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'Such a fabulous night'

Feb. 7—MOSES LAKE — Saturday night's Country Sweethearts banquet and auction was the biggest it's ever been, seating 540 people and raising just over $318,000 for the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation, according to CBCF Director Angel Ledesma.

"It was such a fabulous night," Ledesma said.

"Outstanding," said auctioneer Chuck Yarbro Jr., who conducted the live auction part of the evening. "I don't know where we're going from here, because this is the biggest event venue in Moses Lake."

This is the 15th year the CBCF has held its flagship fundraiser, and the response has been so great that this year the foundation took the unprecedented step of renting two buildings at the Grant County Fairgrounds, one just for dining and one for staging the buffet and the auction items.

"I just want you to take a look around," Ledesma told the crowd. "And what I see is an amazing group of people and community coming together. And this blows me away."

Ledesma had a special award, the Community Hero Award, for Kelsie Eddie, who originated the annual Turkey Trot fun run 14 years ago as a fundraiser for the CBCF.

"This young lady started (the Turkey Trot) as her high school project, and she's raised over $125,000," Ledesma said, presenting Eddie with a turkey plaque. "Thank you for all you do."

While dinner was served, attendees watched a video about the CBCF and what it does for the community. The foundation was started in 2000 by retired airline pilot Howard Gallion, who had lost his wife Lois to cancer two years earlier.

Because many cancer treatments are not available locally, the foundation helps patients who have to go out of town with the cost of gas, food and sometimes lodging. It also brings meals to patients who have trouble getting out and homemade bone broth for patients for whom that may be the only food they can keep down. Last year, a radiation center opened at Confluence Health in Moses Lake, funded in part by the CBCF and fulfilling part of Howard Gallion's dream.

Cancer survivor Annabelle Magnuson spoke to the audience about her battle with breast cancer and how the CBCF had helped her through it.

"Upon hearing my diagnosis, the weight of uncertainty was heavy on my shoulders," Magnuson said, adding that losing her brother four years earlier to lung cancer only added to the fear. "It's moments like these that I came to appreciate the importance of organizations like the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation. When I reached out to them, I found a community that understood the difficulties of my battle. The blankets, head wraps, gas cards, grocery cards, meals and produce boxes they provided were not just practical resources, they were gestures of love, empathy and a reminder that I was not alone in this fight."

Magnuson had just completed her radiation treatment that week at the Confluence Health Moses Lake Radiation Oncology Center, she said.

The venue had a bit of a carnival air, with Tiffany Carvo taking souvenir photos and Shenanigenz serving up adult beverages. Besides the live auction, there was a silent auction and a raffle for exclusive prizes that weren't up for auction. Musicians Jamie and Luke, from Echo, Ore., came up to provide live music as attendees browsed auction items and socialized. Dinner was catered by Michael's on the Lake and featured barbecued ribs and chicken, with desserts by Kaitlyn's Cakes, the Pop Stop, the Butter Stick and Cornfusion. The wine sponsor was Gård Vintners from Royal City.

The live auction items included a grill master package with a pellet grill, tools and a gift card for $400 worth of meat; a wine barrel tabletop fire pit and stools; a scooter equipped with a beer cooler with a year's supply of Ten Pin beer; and adventures in skydiving, fishing, bowling and mini-golf and more. The Meseberg family, owners of MarDon Resort, donated a three-day stay at the resort in memory of family patriarch Mike Meseberg, who passed away from cancer in December.

A weekend at the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Walla Walla brought in $4,500, Ledesma said, and a private barbecue and country music concert went for $5,300. A dinner with the Moses Lake Fire Department went for $3,000, she added, with firefighters helping sell it at the auction.

"I'm just very, very, very, very humbled and grateful to this community," Ledesma said. "It's one night that we look forward to when the rest of the days are tough work for everybody."

Joel Martin may be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.